I've encountered similar situations many times and I am at a total loss regarding the actual meaning of the phrase.

Here's the example/reference:

I ask while chatting with my friends

"Not attending class then, I guess?"

And they reply with a simple "No". Knowing their behaviours, I know that they are NOT going to the class but I can also take the reply to mean this:

  1. No, your guess is wrong. I will be attending the class.
  2. No, I won't attend the class.
  3. No, I am attending the class.

The first and third have the same meaning, but sound a little different to me (because of volition).


I know that my question in such cases ("Not attending class then, I guess?" in the example) is the one causing all the confusion but then, how would I go about asking it?

  • "Me and my friend..." should be "My friend and I..." as its the subject of the sentence.
    – user485
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 3:06

2 Answers 2


I would interpret no as "No, I'm not."

In general, no agrees with a negative question rather than negating it. The person responding has these options:

"Not attending class then, I guess?"

  1. No, I'm not.
  2. Yes, I am!

In other words, the question is fine, and I don't think it causes any ambiguity. If they want to express something else with no, they'll need to say what they mean.

  • Such a simple reply as "no" is bound to be misleading, so you could reply something like "No, meaning you won't attend class?". But maybe its too much to expect since their attendance is poor.
    – user485
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 3:14
  • @BillFranke For that reason, I avoid referring to はい as yes and いいえ as no. It's easier for me to think of the Japanese words as separate concepts.
    – user230
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 4:12
  • [Had to edit this to correct a mistake]: In English, one agrees with the grammar, which means that "No" equals "No, I'm not attending class", but in Japanese, one agrees with the meaning, which means that "No" equals "Yes, I'm not attending class" and "Yes" equals "No, I'm not attending class". There are undoubtedly other languages like Japanese.
    – user264
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 4:23
  • Avoiding はい as yes and いいえ as no may be one way to deal with it, but it doesn't always work.
    – user264
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 4:25
  • It does actually cause (mild) ambiguity, but in the vast majority of cases, the ambiguity is about something trivial. If the context is something more important or demands an action to be taken, ask for clarification.
    – horatio
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 20:00

You can ask, "Are you going to class?" Whatever they answer will be easily understood. "Yes" means they are going to class, "No" means they are not going to class.

If the context is a little different and they say something that makes you doubt whether or not they are going to class, you can ask for confirmation like this, "So are you going to class or not?" A clear question should get you a clear answer.

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