Merci, mamnoon, moteshakeram. The Persian language is incredibly rich and poetic. And given our culture of taarof it makes sense that there would also be a myriad of ways to say a simple thank you. But is there a certain one you use in specific situations? Which one do you use when? Well, at the request of a loyal My Persian Corner reader, I'm going to (try) to answer those questions in this post.
After making a list of all the different thank yous, I analyzed the circumstances under which each one is used, and it seems to come down to a matter of formality. Let's look at these.
Merci is a French loan word and the most common and universal form of thank you. Mamnoon would probably be the next most common and slightly more formal. Moteshakeram is formal, so it wouldn't really be used among friends. Kheyli, very, is often accompanied with mamnoon and moteshakeram, so it's very common to hear or say kheyli mamnoon or kheyli moteshakeram. You cannot, however, say kheyli merci.
Then there is the combination of these three. For example, when someone asks, Hale shoma chetore?, How are you?, you can respond khubam, merci kheyli mamnoon, I'm fine, thank you.
Sepasgozaram is a less commonly used thank you, though many prefer this one because it is pure Persian- no Arabic roots like mamnoon and moteshakeram.
Then we have the compound verb tashakor mikonam, I thank you. This is another less common, formal thank you with Arabic roots. You may even recognize the similarity with the Turkish teşekkür ederim.
Another very common thank you is daste shoma dard nakone, literally may your hand not hurt. The most common time to use this expression is with food. When someone cooks and you want to thank them for the meal, you say daste shoma dard nakone! It can be used formally or among close friends (although among close friends, you would use the informal you and say dastet dard nakone.) It's also appropriate to use this expression if someone gives you a gift or does something for you. This phrase expresses more gratitude and appreciation than a simple merci or mamnoon because you are recognizing a person's efforts. One reply to this is sare shoma dard nakone, may your head not hurt. You could also say khahesh mikonam, you're welcome.
In keeping with the theme of the hands, there is also ghorbune daste shome (or ghorbune dastetun with the informal you), literally, I'll sacrifice myself for your hand. This expression is an example of one of our lovely taarofs. When someone comes to your house bearing flowers or a box of pastries, you can say ghorbune dastetun! Essentially, anytime anyone gives you something, you can use this.
Similar to this is ghorbane shoma, literally, I'll sacrifice myself for you. Because this is another form of taarof, it's a common formal phrase to use when someone compliments you. Instead of saying thank you (because that would be accepting the compliment and therefore rude) you say that you are that person's sacrifice, exemplifying your humility. Even if someone asks how are you? you may hear ghorbane shoma, khubam, I'll sacrifice myself for you, I'm fine. Sounds incredibly silly and completely melodramatic in English, but it's perfectly normal, acceptable and common in Persian.
Sharmande [kardin] is a very formal thank you that expresses so much gratitude and appreciation that you don't know what to do with yourself. Use this expression if someone does a HUGE favor for you and you don't know how to say just how thankful you are.
So there they are. All the thank yous and their degrees of formality. Questions? Leave me a comment. I love getting mail!