General Question

gorillapaws's avatar

What is the correct way to affirm a question that contains a negative?

Asked by gorillapaws (22565points) September 21st, 2018

Here’s an example:

“You don’t think x?”

If you don’t think x, does “no” mean you don’t think x, or are you negating the “don’t” and actually agreeing with x? For clarity I always respond “I don’t think x.” I’m curious though what the correct response is if you were only allowed to respond “yes” or “no.”

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6 Answers

flo's avatar

That’s a a good question, and one that confuses new comers to North America (I don’t know if it’s all English speaking or just in North America) who are thinking “Yes, you’re right, I don’t think x” I guess an English teacher would say “No” is correct, but I’ve never read or heard about what is correct.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

“That is correct/incorrect.”

Soubresaut's avatar

I think the answer has more to do with the tone of the word than the word itself. There’s a way to say “no” that sounds like agreement (“no I don’t think that, you’re right”) and a way to say “no” that sounds like disagreement (“no, that’s not what I think”)—and same with “yes,” there’s a way to say it where it sounds like agreement (“yes, correct, I don’t think that”), and a way to say it that sounds like disagreement (“yes, yes I do think that, actually”). That’s been my experience, anyway, at least for spoken language.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Yes! We have no bananas…

LostInParadise's avatar

Logically, no should mean yes x and yes should be not x, but in nearly all cases where I have seen people answering, it is interpreted as being the same as if the person had asked, do you think x? And I agree that the responder should make explicit either x or not x.

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