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I occasionally have meetings with my supervisor. When the meeting finishes, my supervisor says: "cheers". I don't know how to answer that. What is a natural response to that? What do native speakers say in this situation?

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    You are on the wrong site! As you will have read in the Tour, "EL&U SE is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts". Perhaps your question will fit English Language Learners, but check carefully before posting. – David Nov 2 '19 at 21:42
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    @David No! You are on the wrong site. Serious linguists are extremely interested in pragmatics, turn taking, relevance theory and so forth. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 2 '19 at 22:17
  • @Araucaria — Come off it! The poster is not a serious linguist, but a non-native speaker asking for subjective opinions on how to make conversation. Whether or not you find something interesting in the question at a different level is not to the point. – David Nov 3 '19 at 8:23
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    @David Well, if you’re not a serious linguist, you may think it’s subjective, but it’s not. And if you consider the OP’s high level of English (which, if you doubt consider first their question and second the fact they’re doing a PhD in the English language) it’s clear this is an issue relating to pragmatic. Lastly, and most importantly, it doesn’t matter at all whether the OP is a native speaker. It’s whether the question is interesting for linguists, etymologises. Full stop. (This isn’t a site where the bar is whether native speakers know the answer). – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 3 '19 at 9:05
  • This has the makings of a reasonable question, but answers are almost certain to be largely opinion-based rather than researched / supported. There may be generalisations, but a modal reply to "Cheers" at the end of a meeting is probably not going to be forthcoming. Purely subjective advice: I'd say "See you next month!" (with an attempt at bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, even if the meeting had been dreary). However, one needs more context (about the actual meeting) to give a better-tailored suggestion. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 3 '19 at 14:09
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Short answer

The best answer is "Cheers", followed immediately by whatever you'd like to say, such as "Thanks" or "See you on Tuesday" or "That was really useful".

You then need to go through the goodbye ritual, which you can instigate by saying "Bye!" or something similar. They are trying to signal the end of the meeting!

Don't ask them another question—unless it's important!


Full answer

When we have been conducting a long conversation or social interaction, it is difficult to decide when to finish the conversation. How do you know, for example, when the other person is ready to finish. You certainly don't want to extend the conversation much past this point because it is difficult and annoying for the other conversant and can cause frustration.

One way we have of solving this problem is to have codified pre-closing signals. These are not the same thing as saying goodbye, they are a signal that the utterer is ready to to finish the conversation. These signals require a response from the listener, which informs the leave-taker that they have recognised the conversation is finishing. This closing signal is normally followed by a valediction, in other words by saying goobye. Native speakers of a language subconsciously understand and use closing signals. They are therefore difficult to teach, unless you have actually studied them.

In phone calls, by far and away the most frequent closing signal is ok. There are many that we use in face to face situations, for example, alright, right, ok and so forth. Cheers is used as a friendly and informal initiation of leave-taking. The use of cheers as a leave-taking device has caused problems for people who try to study valedictions in corpora, because it can be used in several ways, as a toast, a pre-closing signal, a valediction and an expression of gratitude.It can be hard to distinguish the expression of gratitude, for instance from the valediction (consider, for example, a speaker who says cheers before leaving shop).

Leave taking rituals can cause problems for language learners, because they may be slightly different in different languages [see bottom of p. 7 here]. In particular, there may be no straightforward translation from the user's L1. To see how complex this can be from the other perspective here is a page on the pragmatics of Spanish leave-taking strategies

You can read up a bit on some language-specific and universal features of leave-taking rituals here. [It's free but you need to set up a J-stor account - takes a minute or so]

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  • Any comment for the downvote? Can't improve my answer without one - and won't help readers either! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 2 '19 at 22:10
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    some users have the habit downvoting even for correct answers.We can not expect comments sometkimes. – successive suspension Nov 2 '19 at 22:15
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    I upvoted this because it's a very reasonable answer. Another possible response is to skip the repetition of "Cheers" and instead go straight to "Thanks!" Yet another option is not to say anything but to smile as a visual cue of approval or acknowledgment that he meeting has ended on a satisfactory note. – Sven Yargs Nov 2 '19 at 23:22
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    I downvoted this answer because it is purely subjective, supported by no evidence whatsoever. I also believe that the question should have been ignored, falling within the category “not all questions deserve an answer”, although that is merely a supplementary observation. I trust that I have no provided the information requested. – David Nov 3 '19 at 8:28
  • "Cheers" used to be something that people said when drinking together, as an informal toast to one another. In recent decades it has evolved into meaning something like "Thank you and goodbye". – Kate Bunting Nov 3 '19 at 8:35
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I think it depends on culture. I think you may say:

cheers

or

See you later.

It depends on context , region and culture.

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  • I was puzzled, as a child, when my cousins said 'cheers' to mean, depending on context, 'thank you', or 'goodbye'. I only knew it as a word people said when first raising a glass when drinking with someone. Different registers, I think – Michael Harvey Nov 3 '19 at 11:54
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"My pleasure.", "Don't mention it..." or, potentially, nothing at all.

"Cheers", is just a way of saying: "Thank you for your time."

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