This is from a British film. In a farm, two friends are working heavily and finally they removed an old and dried tree trunk from the soil and then took a break, sitting on the ground and drinking something. And they are talking as follows:

A: Did you plant that tree?
B: My father planted it.

I wonder why B did not answer "No", "No, I did not" or something to that effect, but instead he answered "My father planted it".

A did not actually ask "Who planted it". A simply wanted to find out "Did you plant that tree?", which means "Did you do it(planting) in the past?.

If there is no problem with B's answer -or A's question-, how did B know that A actually meant "Was it you who planted that tree?", although his question did not seem to be trying to find out about it.

I got confused.


  • 3
    I’m voting to close this question because it's about a tendency to give tangential / oblique responses, which is more about general psychology than any specific languages – FumbleFingers Apr 26 at 11:41
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    In your native language do you have questions that must be responded to with “yes” or “no” to be grammatically and semantically correct? Or could someone infer what someone wants to know and tell them that instead of “yes” or “no”? English is not like a computer programming language where some syntax must be followed by some other syntax. – ColleenV Apr 26 at 12:30
  • Why is it a problem to give additional information? If someone other than me planted a tree, I have answered the question and given additional information when I say "My father planted it." With one short sentence I explain that someone planted it (it didn't grow wild) and that someone was not me, but my father. – ColleenV Apr 26 at 14:51
  • Hi OP, are you a math or computer science person? – FeliniusRex Apr 26 at 15:06
  • Yes, I am a science person, may be that is why I try to find out why what we were taught at English classes class does not actually match what we see in real life. – yunus Apr 28 at 8:26

Answering questions:

A: Did you plant that tree? B: My father planted it.

Short form: No, I didn't.

Short form plus extra information: No, I didn't. My father planted it.

Answering by using a declarative sentence: My father planted it.


"Did you..." questions can always be answered yes/no (a 'closed question').

It isn't uncommon for the answerer to give more information though, which is what has happened in this case. The answerer has missed out saying yes or no, because it can be inferred from the information they gave — his father planted it, therefore he obviously didn't.

It's a choice of the answerer to give the extra information, the questioner isn't specifically asking for it. He might be hoping for more information than yes/no, but to be sure of getting it, he'd have to answer an open question such as "Who planted this tree?".

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