Learn What to Say in English When You Give or Receive a Gift

Woman opening gift
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Every culture has its own customs for gift-giving, and there are special words and phrases for such occasions in every language, including English. Whether you're new to the language or are fairly proficient, you can learn what to say when you're giving or receiving a gift in just about any situation.

Formal and Informal Situations

In much of the English-speaking world, it is customary to strike the right tone when giving and receiving gifts.

In informal situations, such as when you're with friends or family, gift-givers and their lucky recipients can both be casual or clever. Some people like to make a big fuss when they give presents; others are very modest. The important thing is to be sincere. Speech tends to be more conservative in formal situations such as a wedding or a workplace or when giving or receiving a gift from someone you don't know well.

Phrases for Giving Gifts

Here are some common informal phrases you can use when you're giving a gift to a close friend, family member, or loved one:

  • I got you something. I hope you like it.
  • Look what I have for you!
  • I thought you might like this for ...
  • Happy Birthday! [Happy Anniversary!] Here's a little gift/present for you.
  • [Handing present to someone] Enjoy!
  • It's only something small, but I hope you like it.
  • Here's a little present for you.
  • Guess what I bought you!

These are a few common phrases for gift-giving in formal settings, such as a wedding or business dinner:

  • [Name] I'd like to give you this present/gift.
  • [Name], This is a present that I/we/staff/got you. 
  • I'd like to present you with this ... [very formal, used when giving an award or special present]
  • In the name of [xyz], I'd like to give you this present. [also very formal]
  • Here is a token of our appreciation.

    Phrases for Receiving Presents

    A sincere "thank you" spoken with a smile is the only English phrase you really need when someone gives you a gift. But if you want to expand your vocabulary, you'll want to know some other phrases to use in different situations like these:

    • Thank you so much!
    • That's so kind!
    • You shouldn't have!
    • Thank you! It's beautiful.
    • I love it! I'll put it on / hang it up [etc.] immediately.
    • That is so thoughtful of you. It matches my ... perfectly!
    • How did you know I've always wanted a ... to go with my...?
    • Thank you. I really need a ...
    • Fantastic! I've been thinking about getting a ...
    • This is exactly what I needed. Now, I can ...
    • How kind of you! I've always wanted to see ... in concert / at the movies / at an exhibition.
    • Wow! This is a dream come true! Tickets for ...
    • Thank you so much! I've hoped/wanted to travel to ... for a long time.

    Practice Dialogues

    Now that you know more about what to say when you give or receive a present, you'll want to practice the statements to keep your skills sharp. The following two dialogues are a good place to start. The first one is an informal setting between two people who know each other. The second dialogue is what you'd hear in a formal setting like an office.

     

    Informal

    Friend 1: Tammy, I need to talk to you for a moment.

    Friend 2: Anna, hi! It's good to see you.

    Friend 1: I got you something. I hope you like it.

    Friend 2: I'm sure I will. Let me open it!

    Friend 1: It's only something small.

    Friend 2: Come on. Thank you so much!

    Friend 1: ... Well, what do you think?

    Friend 2: I love it! It matches my sweater!

    Friend 1: I know. That's why I bought it.

    Friend 2: How did you know I've always wanted a broach to go with this sweater?

    Friend 1: I'm glad you like it.

    Friend 2: Like it? I love it!

    Formal

    Colleague 1: Your attention, your attention! Tom, could you come over here?

    Colleague 2: What's this?

    Colleague 1: Tom, in the name of everybody here, I'd like to give you this token of our appreciation.

    Colleague 2: Thank you, Bob. This is an honor.

    Colleague 1: We thought you might be able to use this at home.

    Colleague 2: Let's see ... let me open it.

    Colleague 1: The suspense is killing us.

    Colleague 2: You've wrapped it up tight! ... Oh, it's beautiful.

    Colleague 1: What do you think?

    Colleague 2: Thank you so much! This is exactly what I needed. Now I can get to work building that birdhouse.

    Colleague 1: We had a little help from your wife. She told us about your love of woodworking.

    Colleague 2: What a thoughtful gift. I'll put it to good use immediately.

    Colleague 1: Thank you, Tom, for all you've done for this company.

    Colleague 2: My pleasure, indeed.

    To Learn More

    It's also important to learn how to pay someone a compliment in English. Both of these tasks require you to say "thank you." This is known as a language function. Learning these important functional phrases can help you become more fluent in a wide variety of social situations.