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A lot of time, people say "cheers" instead of "thank you". As I am not a native speaker, I wonder in which case you can use what.

It is used a lot for polite gestures, such as holding a door or giving someone a light. It is also more used if you know the person you are talking to.

Are there any rules?

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Please can you explain what "giving fire" is? –  Matt Эллен Feb 3 '12 at 23:30
    
I meant the action of sharing your lighter with someone else. I don't know the exact expression. –  pinouchon Feb 3 '12 at 23:37
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The expression is "give someone a light" (as in light their cigarette, using "light" in the sense of "to make something start to burn"). –  Gnawme Feb 3 '12 at 23:48
    
Yes, in English "giving fire" is what you may do with a gun. –  GEdgar Feb 13 '13 at 19:11
    
Can you say Cheers instead of Bye for example? –  user54696 Oct 22 '13 at 22:41

8 Answers 8

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The Macmillan Dictionary (American edition) says about cheers:

cheers, interjection : (British informal) thank you

In the US, thanks is the nearest informal equivalent. If you say "cheers" in the US, people will think you're offering a toast.

In countries that use British English, "cheers" is fine in the informal situations that you mention.

You can reserve "thank you" for more formal situations.

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4  
Yes, it's all about register. Just to add that in British English we can also use "Cheers" to informally say "Goodbye" as well as "Thanks" and when offering a toast. All three meanings are given in Macmillan's British edition. –  RandomIdeaEnglish Feb 4 '12 at 19:33
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"If you say "cheers" in the US, people will think you're offering a toast." -- well, no. They might be confused if they're not familiar with the British usage, but it'd be pretty clear from context and tone that this isn't what you meant. :P –  starwed Feb 13 '13 at 18:02

I think it varies a lot based on geography. In the US, "cheers" is rarely used to mean "thanks". In the UK, I can only really speak for my region (Midlands / Home counties), but we almost always say "cheers" as a laid-back replacement for "thanks". I'll say it the vast majority of the time instead.

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I've tagged the question british-engligh. I am aware that in the US "cheers" is not used as "thank you" –  pinouchon Feb 4 '12 at 0:09
    
@pinouchon British-English. With an s. –  Kris Feb 4 '12 at 4:10
    
@pinouchon That it is British English is the question. Do not tag it so in advance. –  Kris Nov 29 '13 at 7:35

I am a waiter in a restaurant. When I give a drink to an English guest, he thanks me by saying "Thank you" and my answer is "Cheers". Sometimes I get a reply "cheers for that". I'm using "Cheers" like a salute.

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Native Brit here from East Anglia. I use 'Cheers' when someone (a stranger) has done something nice. Like letting you get on a bus first, or holding a door open. I don't think there are any rules. It's just something I appropriated from other people. I tend to use thank you when buying something, or when the situation is a bit more formal, or with friends / family. I reserve cheers solely for using on strangers. I'm not very consistent though, I tend to use either whenever I feel like it. So defiantly no rules. I'd be interested to see what others say though.

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From what I recall, cheers is typically used at the end of an exchange, so it's more of a "thank you and good bye" than just "thanks" by itself. But while British, I've grown up in the US, so maybe I'm missing some of the usage. –  starwed Feb 13 '13 at 18:05

'Cheers' certainly origininates as part of the casual social intercourse of drinking. It is the equivalent of 'good health'. It must have been around the 1970's that it first started apearing in this guise, as far as my memory goes.

Its route into this part of colloquial English is unclear unless it came from the earlier 'Cheerio', which was used in lieu of 'farewell', and was certainly around during and probably before World War II.

So far as I'm aware, 'Cheers' as a colloquial farewell is rather more recent than the more usual meaning of 'thank you'.

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As the other UK comments have said, it's treated as a slightly more informal way of saying 'thanks' or 'thank you'.

Given the tendency for Brits to be overly polite in certain situations, it comes in useful as a synonym: if you've already said thanks when being handed your drink, and when handing over the money, you'll need cheers when you get your change back. Not that I would ever do this, of course...

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I use cheers at work as a way of appreciating and their response is usually "thank you".

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"Cheers!" is often said just before having an alcoholic drink with someone else. It can also be accompanied by the people involved touching their drinking vessels together, like this or, just raising their vessels, like this.

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