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Oftentimes when leaving work, or the last time I see someone before I go on a trip, someone will say "drive safe!" or something similar. On one hand, this feels more or less like well-wishing to me (e.g. "I hope you have a safe drive.") so my instinct is to respond with "Thanks!". However, grammatically, it feels more like a request or command (e.g. "When you drive, please do so safely."). If I interpret it that way I'm more inclined to say something like "Will do!".

I've replied both ways in both situations and sometimes feel like my response wasn't what the person was expecting. But since it's often said at the end of the conversation there isn't much of a chance to address it without probably being even more awkward. I'm probably just reading to much into subtleties, but some people have said it pretty seriously (particularly people roughly my parents age) which may be a part of why I'm over-thinking it.

So, which of these responses feels more natural? Is it possible some people (e.g. parents) mean it as a request to be responsible, while others mean it more as a pleasantry?

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    Welcome to Interpersonal Skills. Please take a second to take the tour. Questions asking for help with phrasing something are off topic. The same with questions asking "How do I respond to x?", we need to know what your goals are for the interaction before we can meaningfully talk about how you could reply
    – sphennings
    Apr 20 '18 at 13:26
  • @Raditz_35 I've added a little clarification to the question (basically that I've occasionally been told this in a somewhat serious manner) which hopefully helps better explain why I'm questioning my response. Apr 20 '18 at 14:12
  • @Raditz_35 I guess what I mean is I can't tell if people who seem to be saying it more seriously are just trying to seem sincere or if they're actually trying to suggest that they want me to be careful. And similarly, if people who say it that don't have that added seriousness still mean it as a recommendation and not just a generic well-wishing. I've replied both way in both settings and afterword felt like I might have seemed dismissive (saying "thanks" to a person who seemed more serious) or overly serious (saying "will do" to some who seemed less serious). Apr 20 '18 at 14:27
  • @Raditz_35 That's a fair point. A part of me is hoping that someone has a better response than the two I've suggested that maybe applies to both situations (though I don't necessarily expect that), which is a part of why I asked it the way I did. Still, I appreciate the advice; I should probably spend more time thinking considering what the root of my question is before posting in the future to make sure the answers I get will be more directly beneficial. Apr 20 '18 at 14:56
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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes.
    – Rainbacon
    Apr 20 '18 at 18:43
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TLDR: Why not both! "Thanks, I will!" or any variant is perfectly acceptable.

First, I think that in general, both "Thanks!" and "Will do!", along with any variant of those ("Thank you!", "I will!", "Always do!", etc) are perfectly acceptable. Generally, when a person says "Drive safe!" at the end of a conversation, it's as much of a farewell (akin to "Goodbye!" or "Have a nice day!") as it is an actual request for you to drive safely. Regardless of whether they are saying it seriously as a warning, or as a general farewell, either response is acceptable, and you needn't worry about the grammatical correctness. The only time I'd consider a different response if they say something specific about the conditions ("Be careful out there, I've heard there's a lot of black ice on the road!" -> "Oh wow, thanks for the warning! I'll be careful!"), but even then, either of the simple responses you proposed would still be valid and acceptable 99% of the time.

That having been said, if you are concerned that the person telling you to drive safe may be using it specifically as a farewell or a specific request, and you aren't sure which, there's nothing wrong with replying with both. "Thanks, I will!" (or any variant thereof) will allow you to address both forms, is grammatically correct, and is perfectly acceptable. It also is short and succinct, so you needn't worry about dragging the conversation on.

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In my experience, "Drive safe", is normally meant as a pleasantry, and either "Thank you" or "Will do" will suffice. I commonly say to my partner "Drive safe" or "Safe journey" when we part ways. I say it to show I care about his well being, he responds with "Thank you" or "Will do" to show he's acknowledge my concern. To me, there is no secret/hidden meaning behind "Drive safe", it's a common phrase said to a certain action - similar to how "Bless you" is often said when someone sneezes and is replied with "Thank you", there's no extra meaning behind the statement, and nothing more is expected to be said, as with the situation you've proposed.

When I travel and I'm told "Safe journey" (I don't drive myself, but the statements similar), I normally respond with a "Thank you", as like when I say something similar, I know they're expressing care over my well-being and I'm showing I've acknowledge their concern.

Basically, a simple "Thank you" or "Will do" works perfectly fine in any situation I've encountered, from parents, to my partner, or colleagues.

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As a person who habitually says 'drive safe', I'm slightly horrified that I could be causing anybody angst by doing so.

For me it is purely a conversation closer, the equivalent of 'farewell' (that sounds a little less 'dramatic' to modern ears). It is both a well-wishing and a conversational punctuation.

For me it doesn't require a response at all, though it doesn't rule one out either. So say whatever is comfortable for you. A lot of the words we use in English to greet ort take leave of others are really just a recognition of the greeting and leaving and mostly people don't expect them to be responded to in the same way as other parts of conversation.

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    If you think about the literal meaning of "farewell" (that is, "Fare well!"), it could actually bring up a very similar response/dilemma from the addressee. It's just that we're too used to its "conversation ender" meaning that we don't feel a need to reply to the wish/request therein. Apr 22 '18 at 9:57
  • @Angew I was thinking about the literal meaning ;-)
    – Spagirl
    Apr 22 '18 at 12:02
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How to reply to “Drive/Travel Safe”?

My family say it in a different way. Do not speed. Drive carefully. They are concerned I will go too fast, and are showing concern that I will take care, and would be seriously upset if it went wrong. I do drive safely all the time, and go at the speed limit, but it is their way of expressing love and care.

So I respond, "I will" This works because it emphasises I understand their concern, and I take due care in driving and appreciate their concern. Saying "thanks" does not fit, but "I will" does.

I also offer to text to say I have arrived safely if it is appropriate.
It is more women who appreciate this aspect, as they often doubt it has happened as they expected. And with our children it is good to know things have gone ok, as sometimes there are problems.

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You could respond with, "You too!"

  1. This works for both of the possible meanings you've mentioned (both as I hope you have a safe drive too! and You drive responsibly too!),
  2. It shows the other person the same care they're showing you

Thus, you're avoiding your concern over confused meanings while at the same time giving a polite (and brief) response, which helps close the conversation (probably the actual intent the person had in the first place).

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    What if the other person is not going anywhere at the time of this wish? Like you're leaving someone's house and they say "drive safe"?
    – Maxim
    Apr 20 '18 at 20:24
  • @Maxim: "Take care". Even within one's house, carelessness could cause injury, so unless the other person is already in bed such a pleasantry would not come amiss.
    – supercat
    Apr 20 '18 at 20:45
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It's not a sincere message of concern for your driving.

It's just a salutation - quite similar to my um, favorite, "Have a good one". It is just a matter of people looking for more variety than the normal salutation, "Goodbye".

So "Goodbye" will suffice.

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I usually say something along the lines of "Always do!"

This can be taken as just a joke or pleasantry, but has the side effect of makeing the questioner think about this salutation. Are they implying that otherwise I would be unsafe? It's almost an insulting insinuation, although it is probably not intended this way.

So in the case of someone who means this to be taken seriously, it is a response that can be taken seriously, while those who do not mean it in a deep way will not be confused.

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I've both said and received this comment/command. I usually respond with "I will" or "Will do", but if you want to cover all your bases just say,

"Thanks, will do"

It's vague enough that it will satisfy any serious request while being polite and casual enough that it won't be seen as reading too much into a meaningless pleasantry.

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They don't mean it. This is a North American cultural thing. If someone was to say that where I come from, I would hug him and say "Thanks. I care about you too".

When in North America, the store clerk asks you "how are you?" and is bewildered when I take time to tell him. In recent time this has escalated to "take care" / "drive safely" etc. Next year: "always use condoms".

Just smile and say thanks. They neither overly care about you safety nor imply anything about your driving skills.

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