2

It is an exchange between two people. What does the second person mean exactly?

  • I don't suppose that we have.
  • I don't suppose that we don't have.

Or both are possible and it depends on the context?

  • 1
    More ambiguity in negation. Paging Prof. Lawler! – curious-proofreader Nov 30 '15 at 12:46
  • @curious-proofreader Thnx. He's in charge of negation ambiguities? – Færd Nov 30 '15 at 13:04
  • @MJF It is definitely No. 1. Do you think he is sick? I don't think so. It means I don't think he is sick. – user24743 Nov 30 '15 at 13:21
1

Think about the verb phrase "have enough money". The first person is saying "we don't have enough money" and the second person is saying "I don't suppose we do have enough money". The topic they are discussing is the act of having enough money.

This is confusing because here "I suppose so" and "I don't suppose so" mean the same thing. A different construction would be used to negate it, as "I [don't] suppose so" in response to a negative always affirms the negative.

  • 1
    Thanks. How do you normally contradict a negative statement then? My guess is with a positive response: 'No. We do.' – Færd Dec 5 '15 at 3:14
  • 1
    That would be a perfectly fine way to phrase it. You could also say "Yes, we do." Responding to negative statements is often kind of weird, as "yes" and "no" can often mean either "I agree with the negative statement" or "I disagree with the negative statement". In my experience, it is one of the most frequently encountered sources of ambiguity in English. When clarity is especially important, it's best to repeat the phrase from the previous statement (e.g. "No, we do have enough money"). – Era Dec 8 '15 at 0:32

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.