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Someone responded to me with the following sentence:

"The answer is in the positive."

Does it mean that the answer is yes?

Or does it mean that the answer is positive, but not a 100% yes.

EDIT: This is a reply from a job application.

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  • 1
    What was the question? Please give more context. Welcome to ELL :-)
    – Lucky
    Apr 30, 2015 at 21:55
  • This is a reply from a job application.
    – PinkyPB
    Apr 30, 2015 at 21:57
  • Since applying for a job is a sensitive issue, I wouldn't dare to interpret this statement from Laconic answers Ltd., but I hope it means you got the job.
    – Lucky
    Apr 30, 2015 at 22:06
  • If that's the entire reply, then I'd say you got the job, but I certainly hope that there's more to the reply than that.
    – DCShannon
    May 1, 2015 at 1:03
  • That's a rather quirky way to say "yes". One wonders whether they were trying to be clever/cute/funny. May 1, 2015 at 8:49

2 Answers 2

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In the context of a reply from a job application, it is still a difficult question to answer without the surrounding words and phrases to discover the linguistic context. Each word is affected by the other, so it can be hard to decipher the context of isolated words and phrases.

You may have heard people complain about the media using something "out-of-context," because they left out words and/or phrases that were important to understanding the meaning of what they show.

My best guess: You asked a question and they are saying yes.

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With no context, that means that the answer is 'yes'. This is a known phrase I'm familiar with that would not cause me any pause.

With context, it might mean that the answer is a quantity, and that the quantity is non-negative, i.e. above zero.

I tried Googling "answer in the positive" to find you a definition, but found mostly scientific research papers. In these, a hypothesis was answered in the positive if it was found to be true, or a survey question was answered in the positive if the respondent said 'yes'.

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