What is the difference in usage between “vielen Dank” and “Danke schön”?
I know that they are both essentially polite and mean Thanks a lot, Many thanks etc. but I’ve always wondered if there is a specific difference between the two.
Is there a specific context or situation where one is clearly more appropriate to use than the other? Or are both terms entirely interchangeable?
I guess "Dankeschön" is less formal than "Vielen Dank" and it's widely used among friends. But I'm not a native German speaker! Apparently, it's a matter of taste, as it is about "thank you", "thanks", "thanks a lot" and "thank you very much".
You will also hear "Schönen Dank!" in some of the southern regions, which I guess came as a kind of a reverse combination of these two expressions. :-)
I cannot tell you anything about etymology and so forth, but my (native German) gut tells me this:
As an interjection in a conversation, I’d say both terms are virtually equivalent, at least it’s hard to think of any situation where one would be appropriate while the other would not. Even if you encounter the counterpart of “Danke schön” — “Bitte schön” — it is still fine to use either.
However, if used with für, it would sound odd not to use “… Dank”:
- Hab [vielen] Dank für das nette Geschenk! <— okay
- [Haben Sie] vielen Dank für die Blumen! <— okay and even idiomatic
- Danke schön für das Eis! <— sounds weird (and wrong) to me, but I’m not sure if it is technically admissible
In written text, such as e-mails, I would rather not use Danke schön but always Vielen Dank.
@bitmask - Many thanks for your answer. I'm English and trying to learn German, so to hear this from a native German is good enough for me! FWIW, when I've been in Germany, I hear "Danke schön" used far more often than "Vielen Dank", but have heard "Vielen Dank" used occasionally. To my (admittedly non-native) ears, "Vielen Dank" sounds just that slight bit more formal which correlates with your suggested usage of "Vielen Dank" in written text.
@CraigTP: Well, I can only speak for western Germany, perhaps there are differences in northern, southern or eastern regions.