Just saying "thanks" is a polite way to say "no" in my native language. Not technically, but in daily use... I wonder whether there is a similar use in English?

If I have the following conversation at a restaurant, is my answer ambiguous?

- Would you like something to drink?

+ Thanks.

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    idiomatically 'thanks' does not work in the negative in british-english. You would simply say 'no thanks' , if you wanted a polite way of saying 'no'. If you just said thanks, the implication would be a positive assertion that you do want a drink. The waitress/waiter would then reply by asking you what you wanted to drink. It would be odd to just say 'thanks' to this question, but you could use some body language for example a smile or a nod, to compliment the positive assertion that you do in fact want a drink. Better would be e.g.: yes: "thanks, I'll have a piña colada" , no: "no thanks". – Gary Jul 12 '18 at 13:51
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    Nor does it work in American English, where "No, thank you" would be the polite response. – Mark Hubbard Jul 12 '18 at 15:04
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    Not in BrE or AmE. You're from Turkey where a nod can mean "no" and a shake of the head can mean "yes". And a slightly raised hand together with the spoken word for "thank you", i.e. "Teşekkürler" can mean "no, thank you". Best to stick with "yes, please" and "no, thank you". – BillJ Jul 12 '18 at 16:57
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    It is not just Turkish people who will find this confusing. In other European languages simply saying "thankyou" can indicate "no thankyou".(e.g. in French merci can and often does mean "no thankyou") – WS2 Jul 12 '18 at 19:02
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    My mother (English, born 1912) used to correct me if I used 'thank you' to accept an offer of refreshment (which I sometimes do); she considered that it did mean 'No, thank you'. – Kate Bunting Jul 13 '18 at 19:00

Yes, "Thanks" has a similar usage in English. But, using the abbreviated response "Thanks" can be ambiguous in certain situations. It could easily have two meanings in your example.

The shortened reply "Thanks" can have any of the meanings of the fully written statements - "Thank you", "No, thank you", or "Yes, thank you". "Thanks" could also mean a doubly intended "Yes, but not really" or a brisk "No" simply depending on whether it is said with a sarcastic or negative tone in your voice.

When used along with appropriate contextual signals, it usually conveys the exact meaning intended like when it is said along with an anticipatory facial expression or while giving departure clues to indicate that you are leaving. The context of a dialogue usually makes all the difference.

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    If someone asks "Would you like a drink?" and the reply is "Thanks." pretty much everyone I know would take it as meaning yes. – DJClayworth Jul 14 '18 at 19:18
  • You are right - it's less common in English. Here we would probably blurt out "Thanks, but no" or "No, thanks". But, if someone had been at a restaurant for a while and dinner was over, they were picking up their things or looking at their watch, it might be a shortened, polite way of saying the same thing. – user22542 Jul 14 '18 at 20:11
  • The question was only about English. – DJClayworth Jul 15 '18 at 3:39

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