This entry explains how to reply to yes/no-questions and wh-questions that are being used to ask for information.

Replying to yes/no-questions

When you reply to a positive yes/no-question, you say `Yes' if the situation referred to exists and `No' if the situation does not exist.
`Did you enjoy it?' – `Yes, it was very good.'
`Have you decided what to do?' – `Not yet, no.'
You can add an appropriate tag such as I have or it isn't. Sometimes the tag is said first.
`Are they very complicated?' – `Yes, they are. They have quite a number of elements.'
`Did you have a look at the shop when you were there?' – `I didn't, no.'
Some speakers, particularly Irish and some Americans, answer with a tag question only, without using `yes' or `no'.
`You do believe me?' – `I do.'
Some people say `Yeah' /jeə/ instead of `Yes' when speaking informally.
`Have you got one?' – `Yeah.'
People sometimes make the sound `Mm' instead of saying `Yes'.
`Is it very expensive?' – `Mm, it's quite pricey.'
Sometimes you can answer a question with an adverb of degree.
`Did she like it?' – `Oh, very much, she said it was marvellous.'
`Has he talked to you?' – `A little. Not much.'
If you feel a `No' answer is not quite accurate, or you want to be more polite, you can say not really or not exactly instead or as well.
`Right, is that any clearer now?' – `Not really, no.'
`Have you thought at all about what you might do?' – `No, not really.'
`Has Davis suggested that?' – `Not exactly, but I think he'd be glad to get away.'
Often when people ask a question, they do not want just a `Yes' or `No' answer; they want detailed information of some kind. In reply to questions like this, people sometimes do not say `Yes' or `No' but just give the information, often after well.
`Do you have any plans yourself for any more research in this area?' – `Well, I hope to look more at mixed ability teaching.'

Replying to negative yes/no-questions

Negative yes/no-questions are usually used when the speaker thinks the answer will be, or should be, `Yes'.
You should reply to questions of this kind with `Yes' if the situation does exist and `No' if the situation does not exist, just as you would reply to a positive question. For example, if someone says `Hasn't James phoned?', you reply `No' if he hasn't phoned.
`Haven't they just had a conference or something?' – `Yes, that's right.'
`Didn't you like it, then?' – `Not much.'
If you are replying to a negative statement which is said as a question, you reply `No' if the statement is true.
`So you've never been guilty of physical violence?' – `No.'
`You didn't mind me coming in?' – `No, don't be daft.'
If you are replying to a positive statement said as a question, you reply `Yes' if the statement is true.
`He liked it?' – `Yes, he did.'
`You've heard me speak of Angela?' – `Oh, yes.'

Replying when uncertain

If you do not know the answer to a yes/no-question, you say `I don't know' or `I'm not sure'.
`Did they print the list?' – `I don't know.'
`Is there any chance of you getting away this summer?' – `I'm not sure. '
If you think the situation probably exists, you say `I think so'.
`Do you understand?' – `I think so.'
American speakers often say `I guess so'.
`Can we go inside?' – `I guess so.'
If you are making a guess, you can also say `I should think so', `I would think so', `I expect so', or `I imagine so'.
`Will Sarah be going?' – `I would think so, yes.'
`Did you say anything when I first came up to you?' – `Well, I expect so, but how on earth can I remember now?'
If you are rather unenthusiastic or unhappy about the situation, you say `I suppose so'.
`Are you on speaking terms with them now?' – `I suppose so.'
If you think the situation probably does not exist, you say `I don't think so'.
`Did you ever meet Mr Innes?' – `No, I don't think so.'
If you are making a guess, you can also say `I shouldn't think so', `I wouldn't think so', or `I don't expect so'.
`Would Nick mind, do you think?' – `No, I shouldn't think so.'
`Is my skull fractured?' – `I shouldn't think so.'

Replying to either/or-questions

If the question has or in it, you reply with a word or group of words that shows what the situation is. You only use a whole clause for emphasis or if you want to make your answer really clear.
`Do you want to pay by cash or card?' – `Cash.'
`Are they undergraduate courses or postgraduate courses?' – `Mainly postgraduate.'
`Are cultured pearls synthetic or are they real pearls?' – `They are real pearls, but a tiny piece of mother-of-pearl has been inserted in each oyster.'

Replying to wh-questions

In replying to wh-questions, people usually use one word or a group of words instead of a full sentence.
`How old are you?' – `Thirteen.'
`How do you feel?' – `Strange.'
`Where are we going?' – `Up the coast.'
`Why did you leave?' – `Because Michael lied to me.'
Sometimes, however, a full sentence is used, for example when giving the reason for something.
`Why did you argue with your wife?' – `She disapproved of what I'm doing.'
If you do not know the answer, you say `I don't know' or `I'm not sure'.
`What shall we do?' – `I don't know.'
`How old were you then?' – `I'm not sure.'
Get all volumes of The Farlex Grammar Book in paperback or eBook.
Share Tweet