0

I am not a native English speaker. It is very confusing how to answering "Yes." or "No." for a negative question with "right?" added at the end.

Tom: She doesn't hate me, right?

Tom's Friend: 1. Yes. 2. No.

Let's say, Tom's friend said "yes". If the "yes" is for the part of the question before "right", it means she hates Tom. But if the "yes" is interpreted as an answer for "right?" part, it sounds like she doesn't hate Tom.

Which is right? A lot of thanks to you for the help.

2

When the question is

She doesn't hate me, right?

the idiomatic response will contain either "right" or "wrong". Any mere negative or affirmative will be unclear, an ambiguity that is the stock-in-trade of bad comedy:

Yes.
-- Yes she does or yes she doesn't?

But "right" is unambiguous.

Right.

would mean the answering party concurs with the statement, "She doesn't hate you".

Wrong

would mean the opposite.

2

I think 'right' is a red herring. With or without 'right', 'huh', 'eh', or 'does she' or whatever tag they put at the end, always go with 'yes' if you mean 'yes, she hates me', and 'no' if you mean 'no, she doesn't hate me'.

2

This article might help: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv330.shtml

if you want to confirm a negative statement, you say no and if you want to disagree with a negative statement, you say yes.

You didn't know that Wendy married Brian after all, did you?

No, I didn't.

  • also this one – Myrman de Luna Feb 19 '18 at 6:27
  • 1
    I'm sure the BBC have the best of intentions in making this simple and clear, but in normal conversation the answer to "She doesn't hate me, does she?" can be either of: "Yes, she doesn't hate you" or "No, she doesn't hate you". I don't know why this is, but it's best to just get used to it. – Andrew Feb 19 '18 at 18:16
  • Thank you very much for the answer, Myrman de Luna. This is a very helpful answer but, what I am particularly focusing on is the word ", right?" at the end of the sentence. I read all you referred me to, but I still feel confused with that. – Smart Humanism Feb 20 '18 at 19:06
2

Because a simple "yes" or "no" answer to a negative question can mean anything, negative questions are difficult to answer even for native speakers.

Tom: She doesn't hate me, does she?
Friend: Yes.
Tom: Wait, yes she does hate me or yes she doesn't hate me?

It can get even more confusing.

Tom: She doesn't hate me, does she?
Friend: No.
Tom: Are you saying she doesn't hate me or she doesn't not hate me?
Friend: I have no idea what you're asking anymore.

The correct answer to your question is that you should avoid saying simply "yes" or "no", at least if you want to be clear:

Tom: She doesn't hate me, does she?
Friend: Yes, she doesn't hate you. But she doesn't really like you either.

You have to wonder why English speakers bother asking negative questions when they are so easily misunderstood, but the language is the way it is.

  • Thank you for the practical, real-life answer. It is very helpful. As answers I got here seem different from each other, I haven't sorted out this matter perfectly yet, though. But thank you. – Smart Humanism Feb 20 '18 at 19:59
  • 1
    @SmartHumanism I agree that there is a "textbook" answer, and then there is a "real-life" answer. I suggest you try various options with your friends and see what happens. :) – Andrew Feb 21 '18 at 17:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.