thank you very/so much

Last week at Corpus Linguistics 2017, Rachele De Felice and I presented our research on thanking in US and UK corporate emails. We'll be writing that up for publication in the coming months. In the meantime, here's a tiny aspect of what we found, supplemented by some further thoughts.

Our main question was about the relationship between please and thank* (that * is a wildcard, so thank* stands for thanks and thank you). Brits use please much more than Americans; Americans use thank* much more than Brits—both in our email research and in others' research on spoken language. So a big part of what we're looking at is whether thanks in American does some of the work that please does in Britain. (Short answer: it seems so. For my past posts on please, please see/comment-at this post and this one.) That's what our published paper will be about. But while we were in that data, we also looked at other aspects of thanking, including how it's intensified—e.g. thank you very much, thanks so much, etc.

Americans are often stereotyped as effusive and exaggerating—so we might hypothesi{s/z}e that Americans would intensify their thanks more. But our data sample (~1100 emails from each country containing thank* ) shows the opposite: 13% of British thank* are intensified versus 6% of the American ones. When we look within the intensified thanks, we see that different patterns are preferred:
  • In both country's data sets, the most frequent intensified form is many thanks, but this accounts for 56% of the British intensified thank* versus 31% of the American.
  • The second most common intensified form in BrE is thank* very much (29%) and in AmE it was thank* so much (25%). 
    In raw numbers: 42 very much intensifiers in BrE, versus 7 in AmE; 17 so much in AmE versus 3 in BrE.
  • The next biggest AmE intensification category is putting the THANK* in capital letters (18%), and going down the list there are various things like really big thanks and thanks a million in very small numbers.
  • ...which is to say that 85% of BrE intensified thank* are intensified in one of two ways. That's 124 examples, or more than 11% of all the thank* (intensified or not) in the sample.
  • ...whereas the top 2 AmE intensifications account for 56% percent of the intensified thank* data, and that amounts to less than 1% of all the thank* (intensified or not) in the sample. 
When I say I'm studying thankyouverymuch,
people inflict their Elvis impersonations on me.
So, Americans thank more, but Brits put more emphasis on their thanks, though they overwhelmingly do so with just a couple of set phrases. The other thing to notice is that Brits used longer thanking phrases (on average) than Americans do—both using more intensifiers and using thank you at greater rates. (40% of British thank* were thank you, versus only 18% of the American thank*. Americans mostly wrote thanks.)

Now, this is just about email correspondence (and because we're using emails from defunct corporations, they're more than 10 years old). There are a lot of other things going on with thanking in all kinds of other types of interactions. (I discuss British service-encounter thanking on this video.)

After giving our paper, I started to think more about why the numbers for thank you very much (and even thanks very much) were so low in the American data. Part of the reason is probably that thank you sounds too formal and standoff-ish in American business culture, where things tend to be a bit more informal and personal than in British business culture. That goes along with the strong American preference for thanks over thank you.

But another thing that might be going on is the potential for misinterpretation. There are lots of informal ways to emphasi{s/z}e thanks that weren't used in the emails. For instance thanks a lot was not used by the employees of the corporations (but there were a few examples of it from correspondents in India). The reason for its absence seemed to me to be clear: thanks a lot is often used sarcastically, and in email you don't want to take the risk that you will be read as sarcastic if you aren't being sarcastic. (Perceptions of sarcasm may differ here. I've had conversations with an English friend where she tells me thanks a bunch sounds the most sarcastic. For me, thanks a lot is worse. Feel free to discuss among(st) yourselves and we'll see if there's a national pattern.)

Thank you very much is sometimes used as a curt, self-congratulatory comment. In that usage, it's sometimes written as one word: thankyouverymuch. An Urban Dictionary contributor defines it as "a remark one says when one has strong evidential proof of something and wants to rub it in another's face". I know I use it and I've found it a couple of times in the comments of this very blog:
[John Cowan at the icing/frosting post] So what is the happy vs. merry story? AmE has merry, and clearly BrE used to have it too, or AmE wouldn't have inherited it, but AmE speakers are under the impression that BrE uses happy exclusively. And yet the Brits I've talked to deny this, and claim that they use merry personally, thankyouverymuch, even if commercial sources tend to use happy.
[Shelly at the count noun post] Personally, one math is more than enough for me, thankyouverymuch.
US/GloWBE examples of post-sentential thank you very much
UK/GloWBE examples of post-sentential thank you very much
This not-polite usage of thank you very much need not be written as one word, but when it is written that way, it generally has the not-actually-grateful meaning. And that does seem to be more American than British, with 41 American instances of thankyouverymuch versus 12 British in the GloWBE corpus. Written as four words, it can often be found between a comma and a (BrE) full stop/(AmE) period. Searching that in GloWBE, I found more hits in American English (264:161), but both countries are using it mainly in the not-very-polite way when at the end of a sentence like this. (For examples, enlarge the tables to the left.)

Thank you so much is not used in that (AmE) snarky way. So, could it be that thank you very much now carries a bit of the stink of the not-polite usage in AmE minds and therefore doesn't sound as nice in AmE emails as thank you so much? Maybe a little. It's probably more the formality of the very that's put it out of favo(u)r. But I like wondering about, thankyouverymuch.

While I'm here: I haven't been pointing out other media gigs in blog posts so much, now that there's an 'events and media' tab on the blog. But do people actually check that regularly? Of course not. (You don't even see the tab in the usual phone interface.) So I'll just point out a few places I've been lately, in case they're of interest.


  1. Note, however, that I was attributing thankyouverymuch to indefinite Britishpersons, not using it in propria persona. If I said it myself, I'd probably refer to Captain Obvious.

  2. What a coincidence. Over the past couple of weeks I've become aware of people saying "Thank you so much" and it's caught my attention because I don't remember people saying it before. I first noticed it from ESOL students so I wondered if they were getting it from their lessons, but then I noticed British students saying it too, and now I'm not sure what to think.

    I'm sure people weren't saying it a few months ago, and now everyone seems to be, but maybe I'm just going mad.

    1. It might be you've become sensitised to it, and you're just noticing it. But language does migrate around, and at my age (early 50's BrE speaker) "Thank you so much" sounds alien. Whether it's from online conversation or US TV or a change in speech patterns with age it's hard to guess though.

    2. I agree that thank you so much sounds alien in the sense of not British. (I associate it chiefly with Bob Hope.)

      It's also alien in the sense of not my cultural subclass. I think of it as stereotypically used by people who deploy effusiveness in their speech — such as theatrical luvvies and self-consciously camp gays. (This may be delusion on my part, of course.)

    3. Funnily enough, I seem to remember that the first person who used it a lot was the original presenter of Countdown on Channel 4, Richard Whiteley. (Most British people will probably be familiar with Countdown and Richard Whiteley. He was a bit of a national institution for a number of years until his untimely death in 2005).

    4. I don't know about saying it, but I'd certainly write it - "Dear X, Thank you so much for the lovely Y....." In that context, I'd write "so much" and not "very much"; I can only think I was influenced by my lovely grandmother, who did what she could to make the annual burden of thank you letters less ghastly!

  3. Somebody somewhere — it might have been Lynne on this blog — once pointed out that Thank you in British speech may mean 'I have nothing more to say'. Not so long ago it was customary for shopper and sales assistant to exchange half-a-dozen or more Thank yous over a purchase — identifying the article and its price, giving and receiving cash and change.

    To this day my Thank you is often a polite silence-filler rather than an expression of particular gratitude. Still, I can mark gratitude through high fall intonation on Thank. Thanks differs in being less formal. Both can serve as a polite acknowledgement of a curtesy.

    Another way to inject a sense of gratitude is to insert a monosyllable e.g. Oh, thank you or Ooh, thank you. For more emphatic gratitude: formal Thank you so much and informal Thanks ever so much.

    And that's how I believe I use Thank you very much — concluding an exchange, but with the added signal of gratitude. Much as in this song

    The only expressions I'm aware of using sarcastically are Thanks a bunch and the not-very-British sounding Gee thanks.

    Many thanks is for me the less formal equivalent to Thank you very much. The former is my default in emails, though I might use the latter as a mark of formality.

    Not in my repertoire is the tag with low rising intonation affecting to assert authority as in We'll have none of that in here, thank you. A variation starts I'll thank you not to ...

    Some of the instances quoted of thank you very much as a tag seem to be related. In effect the two uses are conversation stoppers rather than fillers — amounting to 'That's all there is to be said' or 'I don't want to hear any more from you'.

    1. I use "many thanks" as a default as well. To me it sounds sincere without being too flippant or too effusive or too familiar. I've been kind
      of fascinated with this whole British v.
      American "thank you" thing ever since I ran across one of Lynne's YouTube videos on the subject. For some reason I'm more interested in the way that two cultures use the same words/phrases to mean different things than the way that two cultures use different words/phrases to mean the same things, if that makes any sense.

      From that YouTube video I learned that Mrs. Guist (yes, I actually thought that was her married name when I first started reading this blog) did not speak with the WNY accent I had expected to hear but instead used a charmingly hybridized accent.

      Many thanks. Thank you so much. Thanks again.

  4. Since you were analyzing emails, I wonder if you looked at the manager/employee roles and found any differences there? I'm curious because when I send an email to someone who reports to me, I am very careful about how I use please (meaning that I use it less than I naturally would in speech), because in the past that has caused messages to be misinterpreted as optional requests rather than instructions. Then I sprinkle extra thanks around as a way to soften the message while still being clear about what I expect.

    For the record, I speak AmE but many people I'm communicating with are from India, China or Russia, so there's a lot of variation in their English competence as well as their cultural backgrounds.

    1. Hi, no the data isn't coded for such relationships, so we couldn't consider that aspect.

  5. David Stifter30 July, 2017 10:11

    Being a Central European, the (American?) English phrase "thank you SO much" always sends a shiver along my spine because it feels so disingenuous. For me, "thank you" (if you mean it so), already says it all.
    Have you looked at the Hiberno-English "thanks a mill"?

  6. @ David Crosbie: As an American (St. Louis sphere of influence), both "Gee thanks" and "thanks a bunch" sound very sincere. As a manly man, I hear "gee thanks" as feminine; I don't think I've ever said it or written it before. "Gee thanks" sounds like how a shy, American woman might respond to a compliment that's too strong or hard for her to accept. Chris Hemsworth: "You have beautiful eyes." Woman: "Gee, thanks."

    I agree with Lynne about "thanks a lot." I find it hard not to make "thanks a lot" sound sarcastic, either in speech or in writing. I have used it sarcastically in e-mails in the past; I think the people on the receiving end of those e-mails got the message. "Many thanks" sounds a little foreign to me. I understand it, but it's not something I remember hearing people say growing up in the 90's.

    @ David Stifter:
    It's hard for me to understand how anyone could think "thank you so much" was disingenuous. In America, at least, sometimes people are extremely thankful and want to express that.

    1. I'm with both David's about the lack of sincerity, but "Gee" sounds really alien, except when doubled up, "going to the gee gees" to my ears and perhaps it sounds insincere because of that.

      "Thank you so much" I think sounds insincere partly because it's an odd construction, in the UK we'd use very in there, but also because I think we (and I guess this is probably a BrE thing) use "so" as a sarcasm marker, or some of us do. "You've put so much effort in, I can see," is really not praising someone. I suspect "Thank you so much" hits that same set of signals and just sounds sarcastic. It certainly does to me.

    2. As an American (St. Louis sphere of influence), both "Gee thanks" and "thanks a bunch" sound very sincere.

      I think that's the point. As expressions of gratitude both expressions are very alien to me. If I want to be ironic or sarcastic, I don't choose something I use all the time with sincerity.

      Conversely, it seems that thanks a lot is alien to you, and therefore not available to express gratitude. I believe it's perfectly natural to most British English speakers. For me personally it expresses sincere gratitude — but only under conditions of great informality. OK as a response to a favour from a friend, but not to one from a stranger. And not in an email.

      My stereotypical notion of what American women say is Why thank you. I've no idea whether this is the case.

    3. I can certainly imagine "Gee, thanks" as being sarcastic and insincere rather than feminine and sincere. (I also wonder how often "Gee" is used at all in British English -- either attached to "thanks" or, per, as a standalone expression of "surprise, enthusiasm, or disappointment".)

      Anyway, I think the risk that attends expressing thanks of any kind in print, whether it's "Thank you very much", "Thank you so much", or any variation thereof, is that it will be received as meaning the very opposite. In emails, whenever I feel the need to thank someone I usually make sure to append something that removes all doubt about my sincerity, e.g., "Thanks a lot. I appreciate it."

    4. Dick, the OED labels gee as orig U.S.. So they must have some BrE data. Personally, I don't think I've ever heard it used non-ironically in Britain. Though I have come across one or two religious people who used Gee whiz! specifically to avoid saying Jesus!.

      I don't say gee myself, but if I did it would be ironic — like Gee thanks!

    5. Canadian here -- when I hear "gee thanks", it's always sarcastic. I can also see it used in the bashful way Anonymous mentioned, but it sounds dated to me (totally in character for a girl in a poodle skirt after the sockhop, but odd for 2017). "Why thank you" also sounds more like something Scarlet O'Hara might say, unless it's said with more of a confident, satisfied tone, perhaps as if to say "I'm pleasantly surprised that you're offering this compliment, but I also was hoping you would".

      Gee whiz works for me. It sounds overly earnest, perhaps because it's become less of a taboo to use any of the words that it might ordinarily stand in for, but it's a very familiar expression.

    6. American here in her late 20s - "Gee thanks" also sounds markedly sarcastic to me, for the same reasons you mention (so dated that anyone using it has to be doing it ironically - much like I'd assume anyone responding to something with "swell" is less than enthused).
      "Why thank you" sounds exceedingly polite, but I can imagine it coming up in a text exchange organically as a response to an unexpected but sincere compliment.

    7. I can't think of "thank you so much" without hearing Warner Oland say it in his Charlie Chan voice. (There were lots of Charlie Chan movies on TV during my youth - gee, you don't see those anymore, what happened?)

      "Thank you very much" used to trigger Andy Kaufman ("denk you veddymuch!")for me, but gradually that's fading, so there is hope.

      As for "thanks a bunch" - that would be the co-worker in Office Space, belittling you as he swipes your stapler.

    8. As an American from the west coast "gee thanks" sounds pretty sarcastic, but I can see how in the Midwest (where the original commenter is from) it would be more common. People there are a little more polite and can have more of a wholesome, friendlier way of communicating with each other

    9. As an American from the west coast "gee thanks" sounds sarcastic to me, but I can see how it would be normal in the Midwest, where the original poster is from. People there tend to be more polite and have a friendlier, more wholesome way of talking to each other.

  7. My Italian teacher remarked that she could not understand on coming the the UK why people said "Thank you" so much, and it's certainly interesting that we seem to say it to people who have given us a service, for instance, when we have paid a bill at a cafe or when getting off a bus.
    I personally find "Many thanks" somehow artificial — perhaps I subconsciously perceive "thanks" as a mass noun — and I find Andrew Marr's use of it on his PM programme (BBC 1 Sundays, 9 a.m.) especially inappropriate and obtrusive, particularly when said to the newsreader who has been giving the headlines before he turns to the newspapers panel. Maybe his intonation is too explicit and drawn-out.

    1. I went to the iPlayer, Tom. As I suspected, I felt Andrew Marr used his personal default *THANK* expression totally appropriately — the only oddity being Andrew's customary penchant for emphasis. Like several other uses, it's neither sincere nor insincere because it's a punctuation signal — not an expression of gratitude or any other feeling. In the clip i watched (from last Sunday) he does inject some feeling, but only a sense of relish at the rich seam of news available.

      Surely it's normal for presenters to acknowledge to news readers that they've fulfilled their expected function. It may be unusual to sound so pleased about it — unusual but not (for me) inappropriate or obtrusive.

    2. I don't see thanks as a mass noun at all, but perhaps your (American?) perception of it as such explains the "thanks much" mentioned elsewhere here (quite different, btw, from the facetious British "ta muchly", and anyway, shouldn't it be "much thanks"?).

      Perhaps not strictly relevant, but the Italians and the Arabs also treat thanks as countable in the expressions grazie mille (a thousand thanks) and 'alf-i-shukr (ditto).

  8. In speech, I've noticed "thank you so much" to be much more common than it used to be, but only on the phone when winding up some kind of business. This is in western/mid-western AmE. I don't recall seeing it much in emails.

  9. Interesting comments about the THANK YOU. As another St Louisan (teaching at a university in Germany), I also use THANK YOU IN ADVANCE at the end of an email (when I am requesting something from the reader). Was there any corpus for this phrase?

    1. We have some very interesting data on 'thank you in advance', but I'm going to save it for a separate blog post.

    2. I'll be interested to see that data! I've noticed that it's very common on online message boards (where abbreviations are maddeningly ubiquitous) to see "TIA" at the end of any question or request, for "thanks in advance"

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Anyone else get The Scaffold going through their brain?

    1. Yes and I posted a link. (30 July above — from 'this song'.)

      The trouble is that Blogger doesn't now show that it's a link until you put your cursor over it.

    2. Indeed. A case of full URL working out better than an embedded link.

    3. I thought of that song too, but for a very genuine (and well-deserved) thank you very much how about:

  12. Nothing much of utility to mention here except to note that in the U.S. the rather unnatural and grating "Thanks much" put in an appearance perhaps a generation ago in (and I'm guessing here) correspondence and newsletters I received from my college's alumni association. So I associate it with a certain well-meaning Midwest liberal temperament. I think, mercifully, it's disappeared ... but one never knows, do one?

    1. I used to get this from the editor(s) of an American journal I contributed to, the most recent example being from 6th Feb 2014 (I stopped contributed not long after, so don't know if they still use it or not). I used to find it irritating (thinking, "it's 'many thanks'!") but, of course, never had the bad grace to say anything about that.

    2. Actually, thinking about it, "thanks very much" doesn't grate at all, so maybe my grammatical quibble was wrong. It's "much thanks" which doesn't agree. I suddenly feel bad about finding it irritating back then. On the other hand, I can't think of any examples of natural use of much as an adverb without a qualifier: "I love you very much", "... so much", etc., ok, but "I love you much" sounds at best antiquated to my ear. Am I wrong, or is this a Br/Am thing?

    3. Shakespeare use much thanks twice.

      At the change of guard at the start of Hamlet, Francisco says

      For this relief much thanks. 'Tis bitter cold
      And I am sick at heart.

      This is a sincere expression of gratitude. I don't know enough about The Comedy of Errors to tell what's intended by:

      There, take it and much thanks for my good cheer.

      In modern usage, not much is more flexible than positive much alone

      I don't love you much — odd but not impossible
      We didn't get much thanks — I think is OK
      Much thanks did we get — with implied negativity
      Don't get around much any more — works as a song title because it sounds like natural speech

    4. Actually, I was thinking: we don't seem to use bare much as an adverb, except in questions or negatives. I can't think of any examples except the (deprecated) "thanks much":

      I didn't enjoy the play much.
      *I enjoyed the play much.
      Have you played much this season?

    5. Much have I travelled in the realms of gold (Keats)

      In current usage the restriction on much isn't confined to adverbial use. As part of a noun phrase it's stylistically marked at best, and more often it's plain unacceptable.

      *She drinks much wine.
      She drinks a lot of wine.
      She doesn't drink much wine.
      Does she drink much wine?

      A minority of uses are acceptable. The only ones I can think of have much as part of the SUBJECT at the start of a clause:

      Much water has flowed under the bridge since then.
      Much blood was spilled

      [I can't think of an ACTIVE clause example.]

      These restrictions don't apply when much is the HEAD of the noun phrase — though even here I think there's a restriction of weight, i.e. extra words after much of the NOUN.

      She then drank much of the wine that was left in the bottles — sounds OK
      ?She then drank much of the wine. — less so

    6. Similar to Much thanks did I get and, I believe, more common:

      Much good will it do you.

    7. Adverbial much is quite often used to modify a PARTICIPLE:

      much obliged
      much travelled
      much maligned
      much quoted

      In three of these four, the participle is used in a PASSIVE sense.

      I'm not so sure about PRESENT PARTICIPLE:

      ?much obliging
      ?much travelling
      ?much maligning
      ?much quoting

      And I can't see that *much thanking could ever be acceptable. Possibly as a jokey his much thanking reply.

    8. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then.
      Much blood was spilled
      Much good will it do you

      Those all sound antiquated to me, especially the last with its inverted word order. That may survive in speech as an idiom, but probably only used ironically? I'd probably express that ironic usage by saying "Fat lot of good it will do you", once again implying irony by exaggeration (like thanks a bunch). Incidentally, Much water has flowed is active, isn't it?

      Travelled isn't really a participle, is it, even though formed like one? *I have been travelled.

      Much ___ing: What about Much Binding in the Marsh?

    9. 1. I personally use Much good will it do you without irony. As it happens, I don't use the other two in my speech, but I could easily deploy them in wrting for stylistic effect — again, not ironically.

      2. The ‑ed participle isn't only passive.\

      3. Consider Robert Frost:

      I shall be telling this with a sigh
      Somewhere ages and ages hence:
      Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
      I took the one less traveled by,
      And that has made all the difference.

      The third word of the title is an archetypal participle: The Road not Taken.

      OK a much travelled suitcase is different syntactically. It's just an odd use of a participle — an ellipsis of which has travelled.

      For a quirky use in a passive sense, I like the quip attributed to Maurice Bowra:

      I am more dined against than dining.

      4. Binding strikes me as a noun, not a present participle — and not a gerund either. The name seems to have been based on Much Wenlock — where Much is a recent substitute for Magna or Great. All versions serve to distinguish the place from Little Wenlock.

      I don't think Little Gidding is equivalent to Not Much Gidding.

      However there is a serious ‑ing expression that much has been attached to namely: wailing and gnashing of teeth. Also (possibly an invention of Monty Python) There was much rejoicing.


      I believe the 'Bowra' quote was actually:

      I am a man more dined against than dining.

    11. searching "much rejoicing" in the OED finds two hits from 199 and 1891
      ˈtoperdom n.
      1891 Sc. Leader 30 Dec. 4 Much rejoicing has..been caused in London toperdom by the issue by certain enterprising publicans of ‘free insurances’.

  13. I have a friend raised in the UK who moved to the US in the early 80s for college who constantly types "thanks yours" in his emails. Most of my professional friends will add "thanks in advance" (or TIA) when asking for information or advice. Recently there was a blog post - forget where - that suggested that pre-thanking was a great way to get a response. Not quite sure that's true, but I've seen a marked increase in usage!

    1. I tend to use "Thanks in advance" if I contact a "contact" or an acquaintance rather than a friend to do something that might be construed as a favour. If I was to ask Lynne to do a presentation say, even if I was going to pay her, I'd probably sign off that way. But if she was a friend rather than someone I knew through this blog, I probably wouldn't.

      But thinking of the reverse, when people use it to me, it doesn't make me any more likely to accede to their request, I just see it as a courtesy marker. They're not thanking for accepting, they're thanking for taking the time to read the email and consider what they're asking me to do. While I hope everyone I sign off using that form of words to views it the same way, perhaps I'm just odd that way?

    2. I've never used (or even seen - but people don't request much from me) "thanks in advance", but have often written something like, "thank you in anticipation of your prompt reply" in fairly formal correspondence. It is a sort of bribe, isn't it? "You can bask in the warmth of my gratitude if you do what I ask".

  14. I've been trying to decide what constitutes a sincere expression of gratitude, and I don't think it's simple.

    A clear example might be when we as speakers (or email writers etc)

    A. signal politeness — mutual respect between the interlocutors (maintenance of face as the pragmatists have it)

    B1. acknowledge a thing done (or said, or reported by the addressee)
    B2. express pleasure at the thing done/said etc
    B3. acknowledge the addressee's contribution to the thing done/said etc
    B4. express personal appreciation of the addressee's action/words

    My point is that the B functions can be disaggregated and employed singly or in a variety of combinations.

    • 1+2 only
    e.g. Thanks for nothing

    •1+2+3 only
    e.g. accusing an inconsiderate lover Wham. Bam. Thank you ma'm.

    There's a blues verse from 1923

    I loved a man, his name was Jimmy, born down in Alabam;
    He always had a hand full of ‘gimme’, a mouth full of ‘Thank you, ma’m,

    A more widely performed blues used a different expression, but equivalent to (*)THANK(*)

    Some of you men sure do make me tired.
    You got a handful of ‘gimme’ an’ a mouthful of ‘much obliged'

    [Often changed to The men up north also to Some of you women.]

    • 1 only
    e.g one TV presenter taking over from another
    Arguably, this is what happens in meetings when the chair had no choice in calling on the speaker
    Thank you Mr Chairman [or Thank you Madam Chair(woman). Not sure what a gender-free version could be.]

    • 1 (or 1+3) with ironic implication of the opposite of 2+4
    e.g. Thanks a bunch as i use it; Thanks a lot as Lynne uses it

    (*)THANK(*) may mark even less

    • C1 end of turn in the conversational exchange
    • C2 beginning of new turn

    That old-time purchasing ritual I remember might go

    CUSTOMER And a box of matches, thank you [C1]
    SHOPKEEPER . Thank you. [C2 and possibly B1+2+3+4]
    adding matches to pile of purchases A box of matches,
    That will be seven and six, thank you. [C1]
    CUSTOMER handing over ten shilling noteThank you. [C1]
    SHOPKEEPER Thank you [B1+2+3+4]. handing over ten coin And that's half-a-crown change. thank you [C1]
    CUSTOMER taking change and purchases Thank you. [C2+C1]
    SHOPKEEPER Thank you [C2+C1]

    1. You don't hear "much obliged" a lot these days, do you, but my (Br) dad used to say it all the time.

    2. One I used to hear was the joking "Murky Buckets", supposedly an English attempts at pronouncing "Merci Beaucoup".

    3. I like to say Merci beau cul (Thank you, beautiful arse) when it seems appropriate

  15. The corporate email context is such an interesting framework for looking at thanking! Thoughts from a Canadian:

    I use forms of thank you all the time in work emails. Most commonly:
    - "Thanks a lot" for informal day-to-day communication with my colleagues (I agree that this is the most common phrasing for the sarcastic usage, but in my experience the sarcasm is either obvious from context, or saved for speech, so it's equally common and not at all confusing to use "thanks a lot" as a genuine statement)
    - "Thank you very much" for more formal communication
    - "Thanks", "thank you", or either of the two examples above to sign off an email (in place of "sincerely", "all the best", etc)

    On the other usages:
    - "Thank you so much": I use this a lot, but more in speech than writing. It might just be me, but I tend to reserve this for when someone has done me a favor, lent me something, or otherwise helped me. Tone is often either apologetic, or a sigh of relief. Might be modified with "oh my gosh" before it, which I would not use with other forms of thank you.
    - "Thanks a bunch": I use it, but it reads to me as very informal and cutesy.
    - "Many thanks" is a funny one. It's less common, but sounds like the thesaurus version of "thank you"; i.e. someone who wants to be a bit more unique in their expressions while retaining a combination of formality and camaraderie.

    As an aside, it would be so interesting to know where Canada falls on the please/thank you divide. Anecdotally, I feel like we use BOTH of them a lot... interspersed with the quintessentially Canadian "sorry", of course ;)

    1. As another Canadian, I concur with Laura across the board. I use "Thank you so much" primarily in speech but also in emails when I do not really know the person well but the context of the email makes it clear that I am not being sarcastic, e.g. "Thank you so much. I really appreciate your assistance on this" And if I do know the person well I say, "Thanks a ton." or "Thanks a million." with no sarcastic intention. And I also say "please" and "thank you" a lot as well as "sorry." I was in a grocery store in Alaska and bumped my head on an awkwardly placed hanging scale for fruit. When I automatically said "sorry" to the scale, all the Americans shopping around me started laughing.

    2. I think any exaggerated expression of thanks can be used sarcastically (I think of "thanks a bunch", "thanks a million" as prime examples), but it works better in speech, where intonation demonstrates the intent better. Perhaps we'll soon hear "thank you so much" being used this way?

  16. This post is so timely - I got an email last week from a German colleague and did a double take when I saw all he'd written was "thank you very much!" To my AmE ears, the formal thanks with an exclamation point attached read as strongly sarcastic. I'd associate it either with the self-congratulatory "told you so" of the examples you listed above, or as a snide passive-aggressive gesture when someone has been less than helpful.
    Of course the more you work with people from other cultures, you learn to read less into their emails for tone, so I had a quick laugh and went along with my day feeling thanked.

  17. Interesting statistics. I speak AmE (New Jersey). I don't see any difference between non-intensified "thank you" vs "thanks". I feel that I use them interchangeably and so do the people I talk to.

    As for intensifiers, "thank you" takes more of them than "thanks", so that might be reason to prefer the former.

    I can't imagine when I would say (or hear) "many thanks". Maybe in an email before my name, but that's about it. "Thank you (or thanks) so much" feels more sincere to me. I wouldn't throw it out for little or no reason the way I might "thank you very much" or "thanks a lot", which are barely more intensified than a bare "thanks". One intensification I haven't seen discussed is repeating "thank you", usually three times.

    Regarding the thankyouverymuch usage, I do have this in my vocabulary, though I didn't know the single word spelling. However, I don't see how this usage would interfere with genuine gratitude, even in writing, because of the differences in where they would appear in a sentence.

    Re sarcasm: any expressions of thanks can be used sarcastically with the right intonation, but "Gee thanks" and "Thanks a bunch" are always sarcastic to me.

    1. Boris

      Yes, I thought of Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. but couldn't find anything to discuss.

      I suppose it's prompted by the same urge to add syllables as Oh thank you and Ooh thank you. Perhaps the same applied to Why thank you and the (for me) even more dated Thank you kindly.

      This principle — that adding 'words' to the bare form signals sincerity — might explain the difference between thanks and thanks a lot. Personally I find the bare form perfunctory and the extended form much more friendly.

      The same might apply to many thanks, though I used to think that the point was to let thanks carry more distinctive stress and intonation.

      As for thank you vs thanks, I feel that thank you serves to inject politeness into formal speech situations where thanks would be awkwardly familiar. By contrasts, thanks (for me) injects real gratitude (if only mild) into a friendly speech situation where formal politeness isn't necessary.

  18. Interesting thoughts on "Thanks a lot". I was surprised it wasn't more common (or present at all). It's pretty common in my own corporate email corpus (over 20 separate occurrences in the last year), always used sincerely, but then a lot of my coworkers and other interlocutors are non-native speakers.

  19. In informal emails I'll put "ta muchly" [BrE] I never use Thanks in advance. I don't understand the psychology of it? Is it a petty bribe?

    1. I take it as, "I know I'm asking you to do something that will cost time and effort, and I appreciate that in advance", which seems a small politeness and courtesy to me.

      Aside: If you think that thanks are a bribe, you might be doing "thanks" wrong. Just sayin'. 8-)

    2. I use "please" for "I know I'm asking you to do something that takes time and trouble". Maybe I'm using that wrongly as well....

  20. I don't know if they're used much in email, but what about the contractions I often see in text messages, such as "Tx", "Thx", "Thanx"? Perhaps it's harder to get a corpus of text messages (but then, how do you get the corporate emails?).

    Re the Elvis "thankyouverymuch", I heard a very funny anecdote on the radio recently (can't remember where exactly, I'm afraid, but maybe on Desert Island Discs?) of someone who paid for a Las Vegas wedding ceremony which included a performance by an Elvis impersonator who, it turned out, only knew two Elvis songs. When our raconteur did his own "thankyouverymuch" impression, the pro impersonator complimented him on it, saying he could never quite get it down.

  21. From the press:

    Sikorska replied: "Thank you so much." (Polish model responding, sincerely, to sentence in Westminster Magistrates' Court (London)).

    (See also

  22. I know that I have written 'many thanks' at the end of countless e-mails (British, former university academic). I would probably write 'thanks' or 'thank you' in connection with a service or piece of information that had been provided - within the text of the message. This reminds me that I am sure that I used to write 'thankyou' as one word - perhaps when thinking of etiquette and the use of 'please and thankyou', but the spellchecker now requires me to split it into two words.

    And 'thank you so much' is now heard everywhere on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 - usually 'thank you so much for coming in to talk to me' - and I have just heard David Sedaris finish his humorous monologue programme with 'thank you so much'. I think that is the American voice I hear in my head when the other radio presenters use the phrase.

    Earlier in the 20th century, the phrases 'thanks ever so' or 'thank you ever so much' were considered rather gushing and a little 'common' in the UK - the sort of thing that barmaids or shop assistants might say. But these would not usually be written, I suppose.

  23. I was surprised to read that "thanks a million" is so scantily represented in the data, given that that is what I would use in an informal work email. Did you find a lot of "thanks a bunch"?

    Also, there is the separate discussion of how radio presenters thank people on air. There seems to be a paradigm of "thank you"/"thanks"/"thanks very much"/"thanks very much indeed" - on R4, at least.

    1. Iain

      There seems to be a paradigm of "thank you"/"thanks"/"thanks very much"/"thanks very much indeed" - on R4, at least.

      I've been looking at this on TV as well as radio. I think it's not so much a paradigm as a record of devaluation. Bare Thank you can seem to signify 'You can stop talking now'. So a politeness marker is added. But then Thanks very much can strike the speaker as too peremptory — so he/she adds a further politeness marker indeed.

      I think it depends on the current mood of the presenter and what wording he/she has recently used. But underlying the variation I believe there's an inflationary trend in expressions of gratitude. Just recently I've noticed that presenters sometimes feel the need to add Much appreciated or We really appreciate it.

      I did hear an alternative explanation a while back. Some wag who is habitually asked to give comments in news bulletins claimed that

      Thank you = 'You've finished'
      Thank you very much = 'Sorry we can't pay you much'
      Thank you very much indeed = 'We're not paying you anything'

  24. Do you differentiate at all between usages in the message body and the greeting/closing of the email? I ask because in longer work emails, my standard closing is "Thanks" (where a personal letter might have "love" or "sincerely yours" and other business correspondence might have "best" or "best wishes"). I also use it as a greeting on shorter messages later in a thread.

    For example, I typically start an email thread like this:





    Let me know if you have any questions.




    And then later in the thread:


    Thanks, Lynne.

    That resolves all of the questions I had for you at this stage.


    1. Yes, that'll be a big part of our paper. Americans are much more likely to end emails with 'thanks', Brits to begin emails with thanks--most typically for the previous message or something in it. There's a whole story to tell there...

    2. Are you looking at gendering of it, too? (Or maybe this is getting out of scope.) My office is mostly women, and they mostly use "best" or "best wishes," which seem markedly feminine to me, so I use "Thanks."

    3. We don't know enough about the identities of the emailers to do any sociolinguistic analysis beyond US/UK.

    4. Joel, I use "thanks" as you've described all the time. I find that "best wishes" sounds too flowery for work (but I'd happily write it on a wedding card). I do, however, use "all the best" as my courteous-but-businesslike sign-off

  25. I'm surprised there is no discussion here concerning the use of multiple exclamation points after expressions of thanks, which has become more common in business emails here on the U.S. West Coast. I think it originated with women, but is becoming more common among men as well. It's reached the point where "thanks" or even "thanks!" sounds curt, insincere, or sarcastic, but "thanks!!" sounds like you really mean it. Personally I use "thanks!!" all the time now. I'm an i. house attorney (female) in a large bureaucratic organization, and I much of my day is spend persuading people to provide information and assistance I need to complete my various tasks (they need to find documents for me, respond to my inquiries, etc.) Thanks!! goes a long way in securing cooperation. I never end an email with just "thanks" or "thank you" (no exclamation point) unless I want to convey a certain irritation. "Thank you so much!!" means I am really, really appreciative. Emoticons are also regularly used by women in our organization to avoid any ambiguity about tone, but almost never by men, who also avoid exclamation points and in fact, are much less likely to include any thanks at all.

  26. Australian here. To me the 'much thanks'/ 'many thanks' split distinguishes between gratitude (a mass noun) and the act of thanking (a count
    noun) .
    "Much thanks" means "I have a lot of gratitude".
    "Many thanks" means "I thank you repeatedly".
    The full phrases might be "I have much thanks" and "I give many thanks", respectively.
    Here, "many thanks" is more common but to me "much thanks" does not sound odd; rather it is using a different meaning of 'thanks'.

  27. May I suggest that the distinction between 'thank you so much' and 'thank you very much' in British English is one of class. We were taught at school that thank you very much was used by the upper classes and that thank you so much was used by Americans, who tended to wish to be or appear to be more effusive in their thanks, and by the lower classes.
    I'm pretty sure this view is still pervasive in English Public Schools, such as Eton and Harrow, today.

  28. I grew up in Australia with 'thanks', 'thank you' and 'thank you very much' (and don't recall the latter as having a social class aspect). This summer I have discovered that summer radio presenters (more of them female, some from other fields eg a comedian) and interviewees on the ABC endlessly say 'Thank you so much', the American formulation. Is there also a slight gender aspect?

  29. This rapid enunciation of "Thankyouverymuch", is identified most strongly in my memory with Elvis Presley, with an extra "Thankyou" thrown in for good measure.

  30. An extremely famous example of self-congratulatory "thank you very much": "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." It would be interesting to see which of the hundreds and hundreds of translations have tried to reflect that nuance.

  31. I recently began wondering about the origins of the idiom "Thank you so much.", as it has come into wider usage in the US during the last dozen years or so.

    The earliest written example I have found is in The House Without a Key, a 1925 novel by Earl Derr Biggers. The phrase is spoken by his most famous character, Charlie Chan. In 1926 a silent film was made, but in 1929 Charlie Chan appears as a minor character in "Behind That Curtain" who nonetheless solves a mystery, but at one point utters "Thank you so much". By this time several silent Charlie Chan had screened, and his character had become popular with theatergoers. When Warner Oland appeared in "The Black Camel" in 1931, Chan cited "Thank you so much" three times, and it regularly appeared in almost all of the more than 40 sound Charlie Chan movies, which remained popular until the series ended in 1951.
    The phrase may have been coined by Biggers, and its usage increased by movie makers, as it exemplified the Chan character's polite but halting English speech indicating that he was unlike the stereotypical evil Asian seen in movies of the period, but at the same time after having lived in Hawaii for 25 years (1929), was unable to conquer proper grammar. These grammar flaws, including "Thank You So Much" made audiences listen more closely, and with Chan's ability to solve difficult cases, made his aphorisms widespread within popular culture circles. The last scene in "Charlie Chan in Shanghai" (1934) have both Chan and son (Key Luke) voicing the phrase in the ending of the movie. Doubtless viewers left theaters and later televisions with the phrase on their lips, and over time it picked up as an accepted cultural idiom. Its resurgence in the last few years has been through mass media using the catchy grammatical inversion.

    Thank you so much.


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AmE = American English
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