What to Say When Someone Says You Are Cute, Pretty or Beautiful

Everyone struggles to understand and respond to compliments but ‘you are pretty’ or ‘you are cute’ or ‘you are beautiful’ are some of the hardest compliments to react to. I have noticed that ‘you are beautiful’ said by a man is different from when said by a woman.  How do you acknowledge this compliment without being sarcastic or sounding proud? You Are Cute, Pretty or Beautiful carries different meanings depending on who says it, your relations with them, and the situation at hand.

When someone says you are beautiful, cute or pretty, be gracious, accept and give credit to them. Graciously accepting compliments creates more opportunities to be complimented. If it’s coming from a stranger, you are safer with a simple ‘thank you’. If it’s coming from a friend, a family member, or a colleague, find a suitable response for the moment. You could say ‘you too’ or ‘thank you for the compliment’. If nothing comes to mind at an instance, smile back. That’s still a response.

I asked a ‘boyfriend’ of mine to help me understand what men usually mean when they call a girl beautiful, cute, or pretty. I was surprised at the responses I got.

I learned that cute addresses both inner and outer beauty. It touches on personality. If a guy says you are cute, they mean you are charming. If it’s someone you are not acquainted with, only say thanks. But if this is someone you know, it could be they are attracted to. A fit response would be ‘I’m glad you think that way’ or ‘I’m glad you think I am’.

Now let’s assume the same guy in another instance says he thinks you are beautiful. My friend says, get ready for a proposal. Unless a guy is a player, he will tell say ‘you are beautiful’ indicating a deeper connection. Expect an invitation for dinner or any other exclusive with them. It means, they like you and they would like to know you more.

If you have an idea of how they feel and you have mutual feelings, smile and say thank you or use a rather cheeky way of answering for instance, ‘it runs in the family’.

I learned something else, pretty and beautiful are used interchangeably but they do not share the same intensity. Pretty is more inclined towards your looks so it’s a compliment based on what you are wearing, a new hairdo, walking style, and so on. If someone says you are pretty, and you don’t want to use the old and safe ‘thanks’, say ‘thank you for noticing’ or ‘thanks for the compliment’.

What if the compliment is coming from someone else or a stranger? What do I say? Here are some safe responses I have gathered for you to use on such compliments when they originate from different people.

How to respond to you are cute, pretty or beautiful…

Thank you

This is a ‘safe mode’ response. It’s what you say to your boss, a new guy in the office, or a total stranger. You say this to someone if you cannot read the motive behind the compliment. Sometimes you may be tempted to ask why the person thinks so. Refrain and go about your business. If you ask, you will sound like you are disqualifying the compliment.

I know

Don’t you dare use this one on your man, it’s plain and rude. This response fits your annoying ex, the new player in the office, and the nosy neighbor. Don’t just say it plainly; make it cheeky, it sounds better that way.

So are you

In simpler terms ‘you too’, you are returning the favor. I use this on my daughter a lot and I like that it makes her feel special too in the course of appreciating me. Spice it up a bit by complimenting the person back. For instance, if you are told ‘you are beautiful’ respond by saying, “you too, that dress compliments you.”


You just bumped into a model in a lift, and the first thing she says is you are beautiful. Wouldn’t you be flattered? It’s perfectly okay to ask, “Really? “You can also ask, “You think so?”, or “you mean?” these responses do not signify you doubt it, they mean you are amazed they could notice. They normally trigger a conversation; use that opportunity to show appreciation.

…and wonderful

We use this as a teaser in church. There’s a scripture in the bible that mentions that God created people beautiful and wonderful. It’s a good response to a fellow Christian. I doubt a person who doesn’t know bible scriptures would get the gist of it.

Not more than you are

I use this on my girlfriends all the time. It’s an alternative way of telling someone ‘you too’.

As always

This response has the same effect as ‘I’m flattered’.  You have not received the compliment to heart. You don’t even believe it’s genuine but you don’t care. This is the kind of response you give someone you have no emotional connection. You are in other words saying ‘whatever you say’.

Final note

It’s not always easy to compliment so when you receive one, take off your pride or fear, be easy and acknowledge, accept, and respond wholeheartedly. Try not to fight it, if not for your sake, at least honor the person doing it.

Always take note of the tone and their facial expression. This will help you to read the motive behind the compliment. . If you are shy and not used to receiving compliments, you most likely will try to take the compliment and water it down. Don’t do that, learn to take compliments positively.

PS: My hubby told me I’m beautiful when I was in labor, I heard it amidst the pain. Five years later, I remember that more than the millions of times he has said it after but I have never known a suitable response for that, especially at such a moment.

Check out What to Say When Someone Says “I Love You More”


Am a graduate sociologist and a regular contributor to national publications such as the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Journal of Applied Social Science and the Annual Review of Sociology.

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