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Why do people say "I'm sorry" at the beginning of a sentence? For example: "I'm sorry, but I don't care for her one bit." On the same note, I would like to understand the meaning of "thank you very much" at the end of a sentence, thus: "I said I'll take it to go, thank you very much!"

Any light shed will be greatly appreciated.

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First sentence, "I'm sorry" is very weakly apologizing for and introducing a possibly negatively charged statement. "Thanks you very much" at the end could be just a plain thank you, or it could be a bit snarky/presumptuous/marking the statement as a contradiction of the desire previously stated by someone else. –  Mitch May 19 '13 at 1:50

2 Answers 2

There are quite a few intended meanings of these qualifiers; here are some examples of possible meanings of "I'm sorry," with each interpretation in parentheses.

"I'm sorry, can you tell me where the library is?" (Excuse me...)

"I'm sorry, but that doesn't work for me." (I hate to have to tell you this...)

"I'm sorry, but no." (No matter what you say...)

"I'm sorry, what did you say?" (I beg your pardon...)

"I'm sorry, I just couldn't get there on time." (I have a good excuse if you want to know...)

"I'm sorry, I said vanilla, not chocolate." (Were you paying attention...?)

"I'm sorry, I totally screwed up." (Please forgive me...)

"I'm sorry, but she went to jail?" (I can't believe what you're saying...)

"I'm sorry, I'm busy right now." (Stop bothering me...)

"I'm sorry, I tried to stop him." (It's really not my fault...)

I could come up with even more, but I hope I've made the point that English is tremendously flexible, and that context, inflection, intonation, the situation, and the demeanor of the speaker, all influence meaning to the point that the same two words can mean dozens of different things.

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Yes, sorry has multiple uses and senses. One of the distinctions people often have to learn the hard way is that saying I'm sorry with emotional overtones is not necessarily interpreted as apologizing and accepting blame for something. It can simply be an expression of empathy, and will usually be interpreted that way. It's about sorrow, not guilt. Though the guilty flee where no man pursueth. –  John Lawler May 19 '13 at 17:27
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"You've done very well with this, thank you very much" (We appreciate your hard work) – which, in a similar way, is different from "I think I can manage on my own, thank you very much." (I neither need nor want your help); or, "Dave thought we were supposed to turn left, but I told him to turn right – and I was correct, thank you very much." (Not to brag, but...). –  J.R. May 19 '13 at 22:31

English has many such stock phrases used to qualify disagreement or disapproval:

  • I'm sorry, but....
  • I'm sorry you feel that....
  • With all due respect, ....
  • Don't get me wrong, but....
  • In my humble opinion, ....

They can express an honest desire to soften the impact of a controversial statement, but they often indicate thinly-veiled hostility or insubordination. For example, Wikipedia cautions its editors not to use “With all due respect”:

When addressing another editor, it is normally better not to start with the phrase “With all due respect” as everybody knows it really means “Go [screw] yourself.”

In spoken English, these phrases sometimes carry a sarcastic tone to indicate overt hostility. That's likely the case in “I said I'll take it to go, thankyouverymuch.

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I suspect there's a name for this kind of qualifier, but I wasn't able to dig it up. –  Bradd Szonye May 19 '13 at 5:31
    
A palliative perhaps? "social projects presented as palliatives for the urban crisis" oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/palliative –  Kris May 19 '13 at 6:11

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