Monday, March 4, 2019

“After you,” “Go ahead”

Say you’re in line at a grocery checkout and someone comes up behind with just one or two items. Courteous shopper that you are, you want to let that person go first. Is there much difference between saying “After you” and and saying “Go ahead”? Is one more appropriate than the other?

Or say you’re holding a door open for someone entering or leaving the store. Courteous as ever, you want to let that person go first. Again, is there much difference between “After you” and “Go ahead”? Is one more appropriate than the other?

I hear each expression as an invitation: please, feel free to go first. To my ear, “After you” sounds more formal, which might make it less suited for everyday use in the folksy midwest. But I’m curious to know what other people think.

comments: 7

Chris said...

To me, "after you" is something you'd say if you weren't clever enough or daring enough to use Dorothy Parker's "pearls before swine." "Go ahead" or "would you like to go ahead?" would be better.

Frex said...

"After you" is more courtly, and, to my way of thinking, it is more engaging--which is not always wanted.
You know?
It's like a little polite dance--if I use the prhase, I would expect the other person to reply in kind. Which means I trust they know the response, i.e. they share my social expectations...

"Go ahead" is more brusque and doesn't put any obligation on the receiver to enter into the social dance.
So it's more useful with total strangers.

zzi said...

How about you first?

Daughter Number Three said...

I think I would say "Why don't you go ahead" in the line scenario and "After you" at the door.

Elaine said...

Or just "Please," with an ushering gesture...!
"Go ahead," lends itself to a range of tonal expressions. Could be impatient, long-suffering, welcoming...
"After you" is polite (even courtly, and why is that bad?) and gracious.

I often move people ahead of me if they have only a small order, are juggling a very young child, or if we've arrived at the same moment. I'm retired; how much of a hurry do I need to be in?

Slywy said...

My contrarian nature wants to respond to anything beginning with "Why don't you" with "Because I don't want to."

Likewise, "Go ahead" sounds like an order. I don't take orders. :)

"Please, after you" or "Would you like to go ahead?" would work. :)

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments.

“‘Go ahead’ sounds like an order”: that’s what Elaine thinks (the Elaine who just came in from a rehearsal, not the Elaine in the comments). I think I’m going to use “After you” at doors (and at the intersections of aisles) and an expanded variation of “Go ahead” for the checkout.