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A: Can you give me a pen?
B: Yes, take it.
A: Thanks much OR Thanks a lot

Is there any difference between these two phrases? Which one is preferred to use?

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I believe "Thanks much" is a Pittsburgh thing. The only people I've ever heard say "Thanks much" are from Pittsburgh. –  NewNameStat Jul 1 at 14:45
    
I've heard "thanks much" before (in fact, I say it myself). Perhaps confirming NewNameStat's answer, I am from the central PA area. I would guess that it originated as a shortened version of "thanks so much", but that's just a guess. –  Kevin Workman Jul 1 at 15:24
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If you are thanking a singular target (one person), Thank you is generally quite common and more personal than Thanks a lot or many of the others mentioned below. If you add more to the statement, something specific like Thank you for your time, it becomes quite formal and respectful. Just a tip :) –  NuclearPeon Jul 1 at 18:41
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Thanks a lot, Thanks much, thanks a bunch, thanks loads, thanks so much, thanks a million, they all mean the same thing and everyone just tends to pick their own "go to" phrase and use it. –  Jim Jul 2 at 1:42
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On an unrelated note, this dialogue does sounds quite peculiar. "Can you give me a pen?", "Yes, take it." sounds very aggressive to me- it's as if person B is being mugged at gunpoint. "Can/May I borrow a pen?", "Go ahead/Here you go/Yes, you can have this one", sounds much more natural (to me, at least). –  Matt Fletcher Jul 2 at 9:44

5 Answers 5

Thanks a lot is the ordinary use in conversation, or bare thanks! Many thanks is more frequent in writing, particularly in formal writing. Thanks much is unusual.

Here's a Google NGram. Keep in mind that the underlying corpus here is printed works, so the more formal phrase is significantly overrepresented.

enter image description here

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I've never heard thanks much, though I am familiar with ta muchly. –  TRiG Jul 1 at 14:18
    
@TRiG: Ditto. Though I think if I did ever hear "Thanks much" I might be inclined to interpret it as a sarcastic observation along the lines of this ELU question (i.e. - "I hope you're satisfied now, even though you haven't had the decency to express your gratitude!"). –  FumbleFingers Jul 1 at 15:21
    
Some folks seem to find thanks much a bit alien, others find it natural. There's an interesting online discussion about this topic here. –  J.R. Jul 1 at 15:55
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@J.R.: I think the number of people who might find "Thanks much" natural is so small as not to be worth bothering with for learners. –  FumbleFingers Jul 1 at 16:04
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Agreed with @FumbleFingers, when learning a language it's important to realise what's a regional colloquialism, to keep it in the back of your mind as a reference in case somebody says it to you, but if you want standard English, don't say it yourself. I can't recall anybody saying this in Australia. –  setek Jul 2 at 0:06

I have never heard thanks much used anywhere.

Thanks muchly or, more often, ta muchly are used occasionally but they are both highly informal. Also, I would doubt if they are used outside British English.

Thanks a lot is far more widely used.

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ta muchly? Is that British? –  AAA Jul 1 at 13:35
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@djechlin: It's a facetious "mock dialectal" form which I suspect is more common in UK SouthEast than anywhere else, but I'm pretty sure was never actually a "standard" usage within any actual dialect. –  FumbleFingers Jul 1 at 15:25

In my experience (U.S. English; Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida) "Thanks much" is a quick informal expression similar to "Thanks!" On the other hand, "Thanks a lot" would be taken as sarcasm unless context and the tone of voice made it very clear that it was sincere. Better to avoid "Thanks a lot" unless you intend to be sarcastic.

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'Thanks a lot' is now mostly used ironically, so it means something like 'That was no help at all, and I want you to know it!'. If you really want to emphasize your thanks say 'Many thanks'.

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I think you mean sarcastic, but in any case, it depends on the tone rather than the words. –  jimsug Jul 1 at 14:48
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-1 for now mostly used ironically, which probably says more about the kind of social interactions you're more familiar with than usage at large. –  FumbleFingers Jul 1 at 15:28
    
@Fumble - to be fair, I think it is worth mentioning that "thanks a lot!" is indeed often used in a sarcastic manner. "Mostly" may be overstating it, but the fact that it is indeed sometimes used that way is probably a valuable mention in this community. Would you reverse your upvote if "mostly" was changed to "sometimes"? –  J.R. Jul 1 at 15:54
    
@J.R.: I'm all for fairness. Yes, I would certainly not have downvoted if it weren't for that (somewhat ridiculous) "mostly". Although I would just say that I'd be prepared to bet any money the percentage of times "Thanks a bunch!" is used sarcastically is vastly higher than the percentage of times this applies to "Thanks a lot!". I'd also suggest that when a question isn't specifically about sarcastic usages, it's usually not worth mentioning that aspect (since practically anything can be said sarcastically). –  FumbleFingers Jul 1 at 16:00
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Saying it's "mostly" used that way may be inaccurate, but the sarcastic, even angry usage of "Oh, well thanks a lot!" was the first scenario that came to mind for me. Sure, you can probably catch sarcasm from tone/context, but I think it's very important to highlight those edge cases where a non-native speaker might inadvertently misunderstand or convey the wrong meaning. –  mc01 Jul 1 at 16:58

'Thanks much' is not English whereas 'thanks a lot' is perfectly acceptable.

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Not sure why this is downvoted. –  Mark Pattison Jul 1 at 13:13
    
@MarkPattison I didn't downvote; but Thanks much has been recorded at least since 1883. –  StoneyB Jul 1 at 13:24
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Fair enough, but it would certainly get you a funny look if you used it today (native, in southern England). –  Mark Pattison Jul 1 at 13:54
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This answer deserves to be summarily downvoted. Saying that it would get you a strange look in southern England is fine; saying that it is "not English" is way off. Webster's New World American Idioms Handbook says that there are many "common and acceptable" ways to express thanks, including thanks a million, thanks a lot, many thanks, and thanks much. We need to be careful about saying something is "not English" when it may in fact be rather common in some parts of the world. He attended a White House dinner.. “Thanks much for what you are doing for your country,” the place card read. –  J.R. Jul 1 at 15:41
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I think "thanks much" sounds ridiculous, but then again that's probably the difference between American and British English... –  Matt Fletcher Jul 2 at 9:39

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