Am I Grateful or Thankful

Written by on August 22, 2017 in blog, education, grammar, writing with 0 Comments

Am I Grateful or Thankful

I’ve had several people write to me about whether to use grateful or thankful, wondering when to use each word. My typical response of verifying my thoughts with a good dictionary and then presenting those people with answers didn’t work, mostly because the dictionaries seemed as confused as those people were.


Definition of Grateful


1a : appreciative of benefits received
b : expressing gratitude, grateful thanks
2a : affording pleasure or contentment : pleasing
b : pleasing by reason of comfort supplied or discomfort alleviated

Definition of Thankful


1: conscious of benefit received for what we are about to receive make us truly thankful
2: expressive of thanks thankful service
3: well pleased : glad was thankful that it didn’t rain

And From


1.warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful:
I am grateful to you for your help.
2.expressing or actuated by gratitude:
a grateful letter.
3.pleasing to the mind or senses; agreeable or welcome; refreshing: a grateful breeze.


1. feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.


grateful or thankful

Some resources claim that grateful is an inner feeling and thankful is an expression of that feeling. As an example: “The dog was grateful for being saved, and its sloppy kiss showed it was thankful.” Or, “Being grateful for the gift, he displayed it with the thankful glow in his eyes.”

I see the difference, but that difference seems to be refuted by as many sources as claim it is so. I checked with half a dozen dictionaries, and there seemed to be confusion and no accordance. Even the definitions shown above both use “expressing” as a part of the definition for grateful.

What to Do?

Now I was in a dilemma, not a place I’m fond of. What should I do? How do you explain the difference and definition of grateful or thankful when the dictionaries don’t seem to be able to?

Grateful or Thankful

I came to a decision quickly. Right or wrong, I was going to go with the reasoning and definition I had learned as a kid.

What was that?

Simple. Grateful is used for intangible things, like love care, as in “She was grateful for his undying love.” And thankful is used for tangibles, like a gift, as in “He was thankful for the new tie she gave him.”

Using it this way, I don’t mess it up—at least according to me. And I doubt if anyone would question it, and if they did, it’s doubtful if they’d find a source to agree. With that in mind, I feel safe for now. Who knows, next week it may change. In the meantime, I’ll continue using it the way I have been.

If you want more blogs on grammar, consider this one.

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Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes nonfiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about publishing.

When Giacomo isn’t writing, he’s helping his wife take care of the animals on their sanctuary. At last count, they had forty animals—seven dogs, one horse, six cats, and twenty-five pigs.

Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar, who takes walks with Giacomo every day and happens to also be his best buddy.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with forty-five loving “friends.”

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About the Author

About the Author: Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammar and publishing. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends. .

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