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Negative questions

 
 
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2012 04:12 pm
How do we answer negative questions? Like "Don't you like him?"
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Type: Question • Score: 7 • Views: 931 • Replies: 17
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roger
 
  2  
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2012 05:30 pm
@Smarty11,
I absolutely hate that construction.

If you say 'yes', it means "Yes, I do not like him". Yet, the questioner is entirely likely to infer exactly the opposite. When faced with the choice I explicitly answer "Yes, I like him" or "No, I do not like him". Tedious, but clear.
engineer
 
  2  
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2012 05:31 pm
@Smarty11,
You typically answer them like they were positive questions. You would say, "no, I don't like him" rather than saying "yes, I don't like him".
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2012 06:01 pm
@roger,
Quote:
I absolutely hate that construction.


You've made a lifelong friend of OmSigDavid, Roger. Lucky you.

Quote:
If you say 'yes', it means "Yes, I do not like him". Yet, the questioner is entirely likely to infer exactly the opposite.


I wonder why Engineer is invariably able to come up with well thought out responses to questions of English and the rest of you seem unable to escape the dismal education you received in English.

Quote:
When faced with the choice I explicitly answer "Yes, I like him" or "No, I do not like him". Tedious, but clear.


You can't imagine, Roger, how terribly disappointed I am to learn that not everything can be answered with a 'yes' or 'no'.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2012 06:37 pm
@roger,
Quote:
I absolutely hate that construction.


You deserve an explanation, Roger. The reason why I said,

I wonder why Engineer is invariably able to come up with well thought out responses to questions of English and the rest of you seem unable to escape the dismal education you received in English.

is because remarks such as yours don't help people learning English or even those learning about English. You give the impression that negative questions are difficult to understand constructions, constructions that should be avoided.

They aren't of course. They are just another invaluable tool in a speaker's toolbox.

Little children don't have a problem with them.

The thing is, dollars to donuts, this is simply a repetition of something you heard from some wag sometime in your life. If folks like you were to take the time to think things thru, to ask questions, you wouldn't be saddled with all these old canards. And more importantly you wouldn't saddle another generation with these nonsensical ideas.

Lord, we just had a person, who will go unnamed, parading the "don't end a sentence with a preposition" as a real rule of English grammar.

I hope you can see how destructive it is to just keep throwing out all these old falsehoods that were drummed into your head as an impressionable youth. You'll never come to understand the beauty and the complexity of language with this kind of an attitude.
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2012 06:55 pm
Have to agree with JTT here. Negative questions have a use.
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2012 06:59 pm
@Smarty11,
Smarty11 wrote:

How do we answer negative questions? Like "Don't you like him?"


If you don't like him, as the questioner clearly surmises, you could simply say "No". If you actually do like him, you could say something like "I like him".


JTT
 
  0  
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2012 07:03 pm
@contrex,
Quote:
If you don't like him, as the questioner clearly surmises,


In bold - so vitally important to understanding one of the reasons for negative questions.
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 04:24 am
@JTT,
JTT wrote:
the reasons for negative questions.


Negative questions carry implications. They are usually asked to elicit an extended reply such as an explanation or a justification, not just "yes" or "no". They may be intended to express a feeling on the part of the questioner such as surprise, anger or confusion. Sometimes they are intended as a rebuke.

JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 10:30 am
@contrex,
See, Roger, that's exactly what is needed for people to understand the complexities of language.

Good stuff, C, damn good!
0 Replies
 
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 01:15 pm
@contrex,
Quote:
Have to agree with JTT here. Negative questions have a use.
Besides isn't this all a tempest in a teapot
0 Replies
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 01:23 pm
@contrex,
contrex wrote:

They are usually asked to elicit an extended reply such as an explanation or a justification, not just "yes" or "no".




That's why when asked a question like that, in which I'm made to feel the questioner is leading me, I usually say something like "hmmm...."

That lobs the ball back in their court.

Let them do the work.
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 01:55 pm
Many negative questions are disguised statements of opinion. English people are fond of indirect ways of expressing negative feelings about others, and that type of question is useful, often combined with understatement and a self-deprecatory pretence of tentativeness, ignorance or naivete.

Isn't it a bit soon to be dating? (Your wife has only been dead three weeks)

Isn't the curry a bit strong? (It's inedible)

Aren't you being a little severe? (You're worse than Hitler)

Haven't you heard of Justin Beiber? (You ignorant dick)

Isn't your tablet an Apple? (You cheapskate)

Don't you have a smartphone? (You hick)

Such questions may be, I think, what modern folks call "passive-aggressive".



chai2
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 03:07 pm
@contrex,
I agree with you contrex, it is very passive aggressive.

If you'd lived in the Southern U.S., you'd eventually find yourself conversing with someone (especially a woman IMNSHO) who could stand up to, or wipe up the floor with a Brit trying to "out-tentative", "out self-deprecate" her (or him)

That way of conversing is probably one of the reasons why some consider Southerners backwards. In fact, it's a very sophisticated campaign to say everything, without saying anything.

2 of my favorites....

Well, bless her heart.
That's different.

contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 04:33 pm
@chai2,
chai2 wrote:
a very sophisticated campaign to say everything, without saying anything.


Exactly.
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 05:31 pm
@Smarty11,
If I didn't like him, I'd answer, "No, I don't". If I did, I'd answer, "Why yes, I do".
0 Replies
 
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 06:05 pm
Ah, loaded questions. They're used in cross-examination all the time, as they fluster people and also get the listener (in this case, a jury) to assume a fact.

E. g. Didn't you have a gun with you on the night of the murder?

To the jury, the assumption is that the gun was definitely present, and the attorney asking the question somehow knows this.

Never mind what's accurate - it's an implication and it does work on jurors subconsciously, just as it works on witnesses.

These questions generally aren't permitted during direct examination. The standard objection is "leading the witness".
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Dec, 2012 08:41 pm
Wonderful thread. There's so much more to language than silly prescriptions.
0 Replies
 
 

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