“Thank You for letting me know” is a fascinating phrase. Whilst it’s something that most of us would say as way of being polite and friendly, it’s likely that we almost never actually think about the nuances of it.
Thank you for letting me know. Is it a grammatically correct? What tense is it in? Why do we need manners? When should we say it? In short, yes, present, society, and after hearing bad news.
But in this article, we’ll be diving right into the nitty gritty of the phrase and understanding how it combines words in different tenses, looking at why it’s a grammatically correct phrase even though it shouldn’t be, and embracing manners as a vital part of a civilised society.
History of Manners
During the early years, when we were still living in caves, manners were not a thing. We would steal, kill, and rape. If you wanted to do something, the feelings of others was not even a thought.
The idea of manners came about when we became more civilised, the earliest records of established rules of social behaviour have been found in Ancient Egyptians tombs. In ancient Rome, people were obsessed with making sure they were clean and presentable, not for the benefit of themselves, but for the benefit of others.
Later on, during the middle ages, manners evolved in Chivalry, a code of knights to follow, making it clear they needed to respect women, and not hurt peasants.
As civilisation changes, so does what we consider to be good manners.
Ditching the “I”
“Thank you for letting me know” technically shouldn’t be correct. Surely the correct phrase is saying “I thank you for letting me know”?
“I” would be the subject. It’s the thing that the sentence is talking about, just like how you would say “I eat pasta”. Simply saying “Eat pasta” isn’t correct. It sounds more like an instruction than a statement about yourself.
Therefore, logic would dictate that by saying you “Thank you for letting me know” you’d be instructing them to thank themselves. However, logic doesn’t dictate grammar, social rules and tradition does.
Although you don’t say the word “I”, you are implying it. And everybody is going to know what you mean.
Some food for thought is what tense is the phrase “thank you” in.
It won’t take a genius to figure out that it’s in the present tense.
But if we really want to be specific, it’s technically in the simple present. The simple present is the tense we use for things that happen repeatedly but not necessarily at the moment.
For example if I say “I walk to school”, I’m saying that walking is how I get to school. I’m not saying that I’m walking to school at the moment.
But hang on a minute. Surely, when you say “thank you” to someone, you’d be doing it the moment, and not regularly. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say “Thanking you for letting me know”?
Well, yes. But as I said earlier, logic doesn’t tell grammar what do to. Because our society has used the simple present phrase “Thank You” in a continuous present way, we grow up understanding what it means, even if it does break a few rules.
The past in the present
Another observation about that phrase is that it uses a past tense word in a present tense sentence. That word is of course ‘letting’.
Sometimes, ‘letting’ can be used in the present continuous. The present continuous describes what’s happening at this exact moment in time. For example if I say “he is walking to school”, I would be describing the action that is currently being taken. Or if I say “He is letting her know about the closure” I would be doing the same.
However ‘letting’ in this sentence is in the past continuous tense. This is the tense used to describe an event that happened at a specific moment, in this example, that event was informing you of a piece of information.
Why do manners matter?
At the start of this article, we spoke a bit about where manners came from. But why do they matter?
Remember at the very start when we spoke about the murder, theft, and rape and happened often in our cave societies?
Well, how would you feel if people felt like they could just steal from you, rape the women you love, or kill those you care about?
Probably not good.
The simple philosophy of manners is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Manners help us to create a society where people are respected but in return must respect others.
Think about “Thank you for letting me know”. When do you usually say it?
Of course, after you’ve been told something. But more specifically than that?
Normally, this is phrase we use after we’ve been told some news which is upsetting or annoying. It’s a way of saying that whilst this information is not something we’re happy to hear, we are grateful for somebody’s honesty and helpfulness.
If somebody were to say “This cake you baked is amazing”, our response would usually be “Thank you”. But if somebody were to say “The main road is closed”, our response is more likely to be “Thank you for letting me know”.
Whilst the sentence itself uses words from different tenses, when we say it, we use it in the present tense. To be exact, the present simple, because of the word thank you.
If we want be grammar Nazis and say it in a way that follows the rules, you would say “I’m thanking you for letting me know’. But because it has become a staple of modern manners, the more common “Thank you for letting me know”, despite breaking a few grammar rules is grammatically correct.
“Thank you for letting me know” might come across as a mundane and common phrase with nothing exciting about it.
But in actuality, it’s a commentary on how manners have evolved into what they are today, and on how the rules of grammar can change if society decides they should.