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When you say the sentence:

The two men exchanged courtesies before getting down to business.

What are the examples of such a courtesies? May it be compliments (flattery)? Is it something formal like Good evening my friend. Can you show the contrast between statements that are courtesies and aren't courtesies and try to classify them if there are more types of courtesies-statements?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

It would depend on context and their relationship. Most immediately it refers to greetings as you've suggested, but flattery would not be outside the realm of possibility.

Edit: I see where you found that example, and it refers to the first definition given for the noun form:

a : behavior marked by polished manners or respect for others : courteous behavior

b : a courteous and respectful act or expression

It is considered courteous and respectful to greet someone however formally at the outset of contact. This way, we may adjust what we say based on whatever they offer in response to our greeting.

You asked for examples. Most often, these courtesies or greetings would be related to the hour as you suggested - good morning/afternoon/evening/day and be followed by inquiry into one's health, for example, 'how are you?' 'how have you been?'

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So, it's depending on situation? Like You Casanova! is courtesy for friend, but it is not courtesy for my boss? Or is it only compliment? – xralf Feb 25 '12 at 18:09
@xralf - please see my edit. And yes. :) That's an example of a complimentary courtesy. – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 25 '12 at 19:03
Actually, I found the example at the place where you will be led when you click at it. – xralf Feb 25 '12 at 19:17
! It didn't occur to me to click it. I need to get used to the red linkage. :) – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 25 '12 at 19:22
@xralf: I don't think you've grasped the meaning of your example sentence. Saying "You Casanova!" to your friend isn't really a "courtesy" - it's a rather weird context-specific "compliment". When people "exchange courtesies" this means they both say standard commonplace friendly things to each other, as cornbread ninja's examples "Good morning", "How nice to see you", "How have you been?". Where the last is a rhetorical question - no answer is except possibly something like "Very well thank you. And yourself?" (which also will never be answered with anything negative). – FumbleFingers Feb 26 '12 at 16:18

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