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If you ask "No...?" And someone says, "No."...

 
 
iGeo
 
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 12:00 pm
If you ask a question with the word "no" or "yes" in it, and the person responds with a "no" or "yes", how do you interpret that, and what is grammatically correct?

For example, someone asks, "There is no more gas left?"

If the other person says "No." Then that should mean there is gas left, as the person is negating the idea of "no gas left" = not no gas left.

Another example, someone asks, "There is no limit?"
The other person responds with, "Nope, no limit.", then that response is ambiguous, as it could mean that there is no limit (another negation of no), or simply being agreeable that there is no limit. In other words, if the same person responds with just "Nope" instead, colloquially it means "there is no limit.", as the person is agreeing with you. But it's also ambiguous, since technically it means there is a limit.

I don't think that the word "yes" is used as often as "no" in a question, except in clarification questions like, "Yes, you want the chicken sandwich?", but I would think the same grammar rule would apply. The yes example is actually pretty clear, as saying "yes" means you want the chicken sandwich, while saying "no" means you don't want it.

So grammatically, do I follow the rule I set out as outlined above, or something else? Thanks in advance!
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Type: Question • Score: 3 • Views: 1,067 • Replies: 21
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:16 pm
@iGeo,
Yeah, your first example is ambiguous because it's not clear whether it's an affirmation or negation.

Your second one isn't, though, because the response, "nope, no limit," afirms the fact that there is no limit. The simple response, "nope" would be ambiguous because, like with the first exaple, one doesn't know if they're affriming that there is no limit, or negating that there is no limit.



Tes yeux noirs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:16 pm
If someone asks a question in the form of a statement with a negative implication, e.g. "There is no more gas left?" then a "no" answer is confirming that negative expectation, and a "yes" answer is contradicting it. Reverse this logic in the case of a question with a positive implication, e.g. "There is gas left?"
Tes yeux noirs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:18 pm
@InfraBlue,
In general, negative answers to negative questions confirm the negative expectation, even if the negative answer is just "no".
iGeo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:30 pm
@Tes yeux noirs,
To me, it sounds more logical (whether or not it's grammatically correct) that if someone says "yes" to "There is no more gas left?", it would confirm that yes, there is no more gas left (as opposed to using "Yes" as a shorthand way of saying "Yes, there is gas left."). If we rephrase that question to a more binomial, true/false format of, "Does gas not exist (in the tank)?", an answer of "yes" means gas does not exist, whereas an answer of "no" means gas does exist.
0 Replies
 
Tes yeux noirs
 
  2  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:36 pm
Unfortunately, natural language is used by human beings, and not by logical machines.
iGeo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:40 pm
@Tes yeux noirs,
So the official, correct English grammar way of dealing with this is to take the opposite of the logical, binomial function of the question, or the opposite of my previous post?
0 Replies
 
Tes yeux noirs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:43 pm
Are you a native English speaker?
iGeo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:44 pm
@Tes yeux noirs,
Yes.
iGeo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:46 pm
@iGeo,
Also throw in the seemingly contradictory response of "Yeah, no"... I believe that actually emphasizes the "no" as in, "Definitely no" in confirmation that it's a "no" to whatever it's referencing.
0 Replies
 
Tes yeux noirs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:50 pm
@iGeo,
Quote:
Yes.

Are you on the autistic spectrum?
iGeo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 01:53 pm
@Tes yeux noirs,
Probably lol - but seriuosly, maybe borderline Asbergers (?).
0 Replies
 
Tes yeux noirs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 02:00 pm
I did not ask the question to be malicious or belittling. I work with a person who is on the spectrum, and he very often gets confused about issues like this.

A "yes" response to the question "You don't beat your wife?" could mean either "yes, I don't beat my wife." or "yes, I do beat my wife.", depending on whether the respondent is replying with the truth-value of the situation, or is replying to the polarity used in the question. The polarity would be implied by various factors which you are apparently ignoring, e.g. tone of voice or social convention.

iGeo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 02:03 pm
@Tes yeux noirs,
I often get confused by these questions, as you can tell, and I would usually just repeat what the other person says without yes/no, because I question the technical nature and ambiguousness of the response.

So I'd say, "I don't beat my wife."
Tes yeux noirs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 02:04 pm
@iGeo,
Quote:
I would usually just repeat what the other person says without yes/no.

This is a good strategy.
0 Replies
 
InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 02:23 pm
@Tes yeux noirs,
Tes yeux noirs wrote:

In general, negative answers to negative questions confirm the negative expectation, even if the negative answer is just "no".


Absolutely, but then see your qualification here.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2015 02:44 pm
@iGeo,
iGeo wrote:

So I'd say, "I don't beat my wife."


So would I! After all the logic is worked out, there is still the possibility that the questioner doesn't understand what he said.
0 Replies
 
Sage of Main Street
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Jul, 2016 02:56 pm
@iGeo,
English gets sloppy. For example, the literal answer to "Do you know what time it is?" would be "Yes. (I do know what time it is)" and not telling the one asking what the actual time is. Literally, that would be "What time is it?"
Sage of Main Street
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Jul, 2016 02:58 pm
@Tes yeux noirs,
"Yeah, right" is two positives that add up to a negative.
camlok
 
  1  
Reply Wed 31 May, 2017 01:13 pm
@Sage of Main Street,
Quote:
"Yeah, right" is two positives that add up to a negative.


Only in the right situation, with the right intonation. But language almost always has enough accompanying context so a body knows.
0 Replies
 
 

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