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In American English, "sure" is often heard in reply to offering help or expressing appreciation. I was wondering if it may not be a good choice? For example,

  1. - Would you like a cup of water? - Sure.

    Is it correct that "sure" here does not have any meaning similar to thanks in advance?

    I would say "Yes, please". Even sometimes "Yes, please. Thanks!" Using "sure" makes me feel that others might think I take their help for granted.

  2. - Thank you so much! - Sure.

    Is "sure" here used to emphasize that appreciation is required or highly expected?

    I would think "You are welcome" or "My pleasure" are less demanding.

In general, how shall one use "sure" in an acceptable way? What kinds of occasions can it be used, and when better not?

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This may be of interest for your second question: Can "sure thing" mean "you're welcome?" "Sure" is used similarly to "sure thing" in response to thanks. –  KitFox Jun 23 '11 at 15:16
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In your first example, you could very easily replace "Sure" with "Yes "and have very similar meanings. All it's trying to convey is an affirmative response, and I would not suggest that it carries and implied Please or Thank you. Think of it as short for the following:

Would you like a cup of water? - I surely would.

In your second example, the sure is definitely not trying to imply that the appreciation is expected or required. Rather it is one of several words/phrases that have come to be commonly used in reply to thanks. E.g. no problem, certainly, etc. These all have a similar usage in practice to You're welcome.

Finally, while this usage of sure is informal, it's common enough that I'd feel comfortable using it all but the most formal scenarios, with the caveat that in situations like your first example, I'd probably make it Sure, thanks since I'm being offered something.

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To me, the second "sure" is a little self-deprecating: it says "I'm not really accepting your thanks, because I don't think I've done enough to earn it". –  Colin Fine Jun 23 '11 at 17:07
    
@Colin Fine - Yeah, I think most of those are somewhat self-deprecating. They tend to indicate that either the task they've completed was so easy as to not 'earn' a thanks, or that because of their relative position to the person, they're obligated to do it, so no thanks is necessary as of course they were going to do it. Edit: to be clear, the obligation may well be self-imposed or based on societal norms, as in helping a friend –  Dusty Jun 23 '11 at 17:12
    
@Colin Fine: I agree. The second "sure" is like Spanish's "de nada" (spelling may be wrong), which translates into "it's nothing" in English. You're acknowledging a thanks but implying it was something you'd do as a matter of course, not something special. Similar phrases would be "don't mention it" or "my pleasure" (which is the classier reply that is de riguer at the local Chic-Fil-A restaurant). –  Wayne Jun 23 '11 at 21:05
    
+1, especially the caveat, or I bet etiquette books would object... –  Cerberus Jun 24 '11 at 4:27
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"Sure" in the first usage is an emphatic "yes"; it implies that the second speaker is sure they will like a cup of water.

"Sure" in the second usage is a shortening of "sure thing", which in turn is a shortening of "it was a sure thing", implying that no thanks are necessary because the second speaker was certain to perform the action for which they're being thanked.

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