Thank you for being patient

Introduction

When you’ve been waiting for a while, perhaps it’s in a restaurant. You’ve been waiting a while for your food, or maybe you’re on the phone, and the waiting time is extended, one phrase that people will often say to you is “Thank you for being patient”.

‘Thank you for being patient’ means that they appreciate the fact you have waited for so long yet haven’t made a fuss.

In this article, I want to look further into the phrase and figure out if it’s grammatically correct if there’s a better way of saying it, where it comes from, and what it really means.

Phatic Language?

You could argue that “Thank you for being patient” is just an example of Phatic language. Something that doesn’t serve any purpose and doesn’t give us any additional information, but we say anyway because we wish to be polite.

Although manners are a vital part of civilised society, they don’t serve a purpose beyond making people feel happy and making social interactions easier.

However, it might be argued that it’s not just phatic language. You are giving information about your state of mind, you’re feeling gratitude towards someone for their patience.

Although it could be argued that unless sincere, this is still phatic language.

Patient vs Patience

A similar-sounding alternative is “Thank you for your patience”. This sounds almost identical and does have a very similar meaning. But let’s look into the difference between “patient” and “patience”.

“Patient” is a thing that you are, it’s an adjective.

“Patience” is a thing that you have, it’s an abstract noun.

So, the question is, are you thanking someone for what they are for what they have?

The answer is, it doesn’t really matter. Both phrases mean the same thing and portray the same message. You could say either of these and people will know what you’re talking about.

Etymology

Thank You

The concept of gratitude has been ever since we were living in caves. In fact, probably even before; many animals (even wild ones) have been shown to show signs of gratitude.

However, the actual term “Thank You” has still been the most common method for humans to show gratitude for a large part of our history.

It has its origins in the word “Tongére”, which is Latin for “to thank”. Initially, it meant “I will remember what you have done for me”.

This is slightly different from how it’s used today, as today, it implies not only will we remember it, but are happy it has happened.

Patient

“Patient” is an interesting word, as it’s a homophone.

“Patient” can mean being able to wait for a long time without complaining. But it can also mean a medical patient- someone who is sick but awaiting treatment.

But both of these words have the same Etymology.

In Latin “Patiens” means to suffer or bear without complaint. This is what people who are being patient are doing, but it’s also what medical patients are doing.

You could even say that patients need to be patient.

What tense is it in?

It probably doesn’t take a genius to figure out that “Thank you for being patient” is written in the present tense. But we can look into it a bit deeper than that.

The present tense has two types.

Present simple is talking about general truths – “Cows eat grass”, “Fish swim”.

Present continuous is talking about things which are happening right now – “The cow is eating grass” “The fishes are swimming”.

Therefore, “Thank You” is in the present simple.

Thanking vs Thank

The fact it’s not “thanking you” suggests that it’s in the present simple- conveying a general truth. But should it be “Thanking you”?

When you’re grateful, it’s not something which you will be for a very long time. You’re thankful for a while, and then you move on.

But if you look at “Thank”‘s etymological origins, in Latin “Tongére”, used to mean “I will remember what you have done for me”. By saying “thank you” instead of “thanking you”, you’re saying that you won’t be forgetting about their sacrifice.

Should it be “Thanking?”

The fact it’s not “thanking you” suggests that it’s in the present simple- conveying a general truth. But should it be “Thanking you”?

When you’re grateful, it’s not something which you will be for a very long time. You’re thankful for a while, and then you move on.

But if you look at “Thank”‘s etymological origins, in Latin “Tongére”, used to mean “I will remember what you have done for me”. By saying “thank you” instead of “thanking you”, you’re saying that you won’t be forgetting about their sacrifice.

Should you add an “I”?

“Thank” is an example of a verb, a doing word. But usually, when we use a verb, it starts with a pronoun, “I eat” “She surfs” “He drives” “They swim” “It shines”.

The only time we wouldn’t put a pronoun in front of a verb is when it’s an instruction, “Put the chicken in the oven” “Turn the wheel”. These are known as imperative verbs.

However, when you say “Thank You”, you’re not telling anyone to thank themselves. So it would make sense for you to put an “I” at the front, making it “I thank you for being patient”.

This is true. But the English language is not determined by logic, it’s determined by tradition, and because we have decided to drop the “I”, that is what we must all do.

What it really means

Now, let’s be honest for a minute here. Usually, when people say this phrase, they aren’t grateful for your being patient, they’re just saying it because they don’t want you to whinge.

“Thank you for being patient” really means “You better not start whinging”.

Conclusion

“Thank you for being patient” is what someone might say to us when we have been waiting for a while now.

Unless it’s meant with sincerity (which it mostly isn’t), it’s just an example of Phatic language.

Another way you could say it would be “Thank you for your patience” this has the same meaning but using an abstract noun instead of an adjective.

Both “Thank” and “Patience” have their origins in the Latin language, likely having come over when the Romans invaded.

And you could put an I at the front, or saying “Thanking you”. But there really is no need as people will know what you mean.