31

From a logical point of view, the answer no negates the negation, and yes confirms it.

But how would a native speaker react when s/he asked "Don't you love me any more?" and got yes or no as answer?

German has a special word, doch, which is used only for negating a negation in a question. But without this word it's difficult to respond tersely, and in a way that would be understood.

  • It would be more idiomatic (at least in the U.S.) to phrase this as "confirm briefly" rather than "confirm shortly". – barbara beeton Jan 23 '13 at 21:14
26

Yes, that's true. It can be difficult in English to be both brief and understood.

In English usage, when we ask a question in a negative form, we usually anticipate a negative answer, so any brief answer will probably be construed that way. In fact, this is so true that the opposing answer, "Yes," to that same question, would often be simply confusing. To be perfectly clear that that one still loves the one asking this question, you would really need to expound more: Yes, I still love you or Of course, I still love you or something like that.

A positive question, You still love me? or Do you still love me? does not necessarily carry this negative expectation. A simple yes or no will not likely be misunderstood.

  • 6
    Tone in spoken English would also help the short answer to the negative form be understood correctly. – Ryan Leonard Jan 23 '13 at 20:57
  • @Rhino, yeah, in speech, definitely critical. In writing, much harder to evoke. – Ryan Haber Jan 23 '13 at 21:07
1

Technically this is double negation, therefore yes would be no, but this isn't proper really. Typically when this happens, you use tone and context to determine the meaning. However if a simple answer is given, you assume typically that negation was ignored. Form your example, yes == love & no == no love.

0

Yes and no originally mean the (positive) thing happen or not when answering negative questions. You can safely answer yes! to the question, meaning “yes, I do”.

Either way, when asking ambiguous questions, your interlocutor will interpret your answer the way (s)he likes, so if being clear is an issue, I'd suggest to add more words.

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