I came across this question today and the accepted answer starts with "Why yes, yes you can". Why didn't the person simply write 'yes, you can' instead of adding two extra words? Is this person trying to emphasize the obviousness of the usage of the word in the given question? What is the difference between them?


Why can serve as an interjection. From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Why -- used at the beginning of a statement, especially to express surprise
Why, here's what I was looking for!

So you guessed right:

Is this person trying to emphasize the obviousness of the usage of the word in the given question?

Why, yes, of course!

As Merriam-Webster notes, this usage of why is "somewhat old-fashioned".

An example of usage (The Beggar's Opera, 1728; audio record, another audio record):

Why how now, Madam Flirt?
If you thus must chatter;
And are for flinging Dirt,
Let’s try who best can spatter;
Madam Flirt!

Why how now, saucy Jade;
Sure the Wench is tipsy!
How can you see me made
The Scoff of such a Gipsy?
Saucy Jade!

  • 2
    +1. But it's been used by song writers a little more contemporary than John Gay: Competition? Why yes, I would love some / How the fuck they getting mad 'cause they run done / Mad 'cause I’m getting money in abundance / Man I can’t even count all of these hundreds - Nicki Minaj, 'Check It Out, 2010 Dec 23 '15 at 11:33
  • @StoneyB - I know, it's only that I chanced upon Beggar's Opera recently. (0: Dec 23 '15 at 11:33
  • 1
    Terrific piece. If you don't already know it you should check out the Brecht/Weill adaptation, too. Dec 23 '15 at 11:35
  • 1
    +1 Great to see people here exhibiting not just excellent language skills but a great wit too! Dec 23 '15 at 11:51
  • Why yes, I would love to have my anus probed.
    – NoName
    Feb 27 at 5:26

Another subtle difference in meaning between "Yes you can" and "Why yes, yes you can" is that "yes you can" is a straightforward statement of giving permission or judgment of ability of the listener to perform some action, while "Why yes, yes you can" is often used by a speaker who is trying to be humorous about a situation where it should be obvious to the listener that they shouldn't have needed to ask permission in the first place.

Q: Can I eat that food?
A: Yes you can.

Q: Can I fall down?
A: Why yes, yes you can.

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