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Reply vs answer vs response

Discussion in 'English Only' started by alargeau, Nov 26, 2007.

  1. alargeau Senior Member

    France
    Hello,

    here is the stupid question of the day! When will you use those three words?
     
  2. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    There are no stupid questions! :D

    You reply to a question.

    You answer a question.

    You respond to a question by giving a reply or an answer.

    A reply or an answer is a response to a question....
     
  3. alargeau Senior Member

    France
    Alright, but what is the difference between them? Why will you use one instead of the other ones?
     
  4. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    It depends on [guess what?] the context. Do you have an example?
     
  5. alargeau Senior Member

    France
    Well, actually I watched a TV show (desperate housewives) and it was about a woman's wedding. She had sent wedding cards to her friends. One of her friends came to her home and said (You want a response? Here is my response!' and she teared up the wedding card.
    So I just wondered why she used the word 'response'.
     
  6. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I think the most informal way to say you replied, answered, or responded is to say you "said" or "went" something.
     
  7. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    ROFL:D

    It's a play on words. At the bottom of wedding invitations in the U.S. is RSVP, (Répondez s'il vous plaît = Please respond = Tell us if you are coming to the wedding). The woman's friend was upset and rather than responding by phone, she responded to the invitation by tearing it up!
     
  8. alargeau Senior Member

    France
    Damn, then I guess the context is not good because it doesn't help me.
    For instance when I reply to a letter I always say 'thank you for your reply'. Could I say 'thank you for your answer (or response)? It does sound strange to me but I don't know why.
     
  9. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    In that case, either:

    Thank you for your reply
    Thank you for your response

    I don't know why answer sounds "wrong", it probably just convention.
     
  10. alargeau Senior Member

    France
    Thanks.
    Then can someone give me examples where these words are not interchangeable?
     
  11. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English

    You could also say:

    Thank you for your letter/ Thank you for writing / Thank you for getting back to me (more informal). Does that help?
     
  12. xymox Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    English, French - Canada
    Hi,

    For example you answer the phone, you don't respond or reply.

    For examples and/or explanations (or answers or responses or replies) :D have a look here
     
  13. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Excellent link, jgagnon.

    I was stumbling towards a reply on the lines of "response may well be non-verbal": your link covers this much better than I could:)

    Loob
     
  14. alargeau Senior Member

    France
    What you're saying is interesting. Obviously, you don't reply or respond the phone, but you answer it. So if you cannot respond or reply the phone, it means that there is definitely a difference between answer, reply and response. But which one?
    It also seems that reply and answer are more commonly used and seem to be more interchangeable. Response is also referred to as a reaction.
     
  15. Malca Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    español
    what about respond to a question made on the phone. Respond sounds quite weird to me..a bit too formal, isn't ? I would say He answered him that...(they are talking through the phone)
     
  16. Sidjanga Senior Member

    German;southern tendencies
    Hi,

    I've also thought a lot about the differences between these words, and this is what I have come up with so far:

    My impression is that:

    A response is generally a reaction to something, not necessarily a verbal one; for example, you also talk of the "immune response".
    The verb and noun response are followd by the preposition to.

    A reply is usually a reaction or an answer to something in speech or writing, though it can also be a reaction of a different kind, like a gesture or an action.
    In general, it seems to me that a "reply" is a more cognitive thing that you'll normally receive from a person, whereas a (biological, chemical, mechanical...) system can't give you a reply, but yes a response.
    The verb and noun response are equally followd by the preposition to.

    An answer seems to be, above all, some sort of a solution to a question or a problem.
    I am not sure how the telephone fits in here, though. That's maybe just the way it is. Language is not always - if ever - logical.
    The verb to answer is not normally followed by to (apart from one meaning where it means "to be called").

    I would be grateful if someone could confirm or rectify this.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2009
  17. KenInPDX Senior Member

    Portland, Oregon
    US English
    Sometimes looking at the etymology of a word can help you to understand subtle distinctions in usage.

    "Reply" comes from the French word "replier" which means "to fold again" or "to fold back". I think reply is used primarily when there is an expected type of response, or when the response is in the same form as the initial action. I think response is a more general term that covers many types of actions that occur following another action or stimulus.

    So: the expected response to a letter is another letter. Hence, it is a reply.

    The bodies response to a virus is not another virus. Therefore, the immune response is not a reply to the virus.
     
  18. joeybgood New Member

    English
    In the legal community, there is a difference between the three words.

    When a party is served with a lawsuit (usually in the form of a "complaint"), they will be required to, within a specified period of time, file an ANSWER.

    If they should choose to not ANSWER the complaint but rather, let's say, have the complaint dismissed on various legal grounds, then they are filing a RESPONSE.

    Once an pleading/complaint is filed (the "initial" pleading in an action, or "motion" for something), and the opposing side files their ANSWER or RESPONSE to it, then the original "initiating" side can then choose to REPLY to it.

    Got it? :)
     
  19. joeybgood New Member

    English
    Black's Law Dictionary may also be dispositive. :)
     
  20. Peter_from_NYC New Member

    English - NYC
    I guess I'm looking up specifically "response v reply" to see in which order something is written to a Judge in a Federal case (SDNY):


    1. e.g. I write an OSC (Order to Show Cause)
    2. my adversary responds within 14 days
    3. then I have 7 days to reply
    Is that about correct?

    first respond and then reply? Or are they sometimes, confusingly, interchanged, along with answer?
     
  21. rghollenbeck New Member

    eNGLISH
    Hello to this forum. This is my first post.

    Reply, to my understanding, is especially useful when referring to email or snailmail (government-run mail service).

    But we respond to legal matters and other threatening actions against us. Hear me out. We may be on the cusp of a discovery. Nobody ever replies to a rock being thrown at him/her. They respond. Nobody ever replies to an emergency--they respond. That's why they don't call it the "emergency reply unit."

    Hmmm. . .

    I think I'm on to something but I want to have a bunch of people add their own replies. :)
     
  22. rghollenbeck New Member

    eNGLISH
    Re: Reply vs answer vs response
    In the legal community, there is a difference between the three words.

    When a party is served with a lawsuit (usually in the form of a "complaint"), they will be required to, within a specified period of time, file an ANSWER.

    If they should choose to not ANSWER the complaint but rather, let's say, have the complaint dismissed on various legal grounds, then they are filing a RESPONSE.

    Once an pleading/complaint is filed (the "initial" pleading in an action, or "motion" for something), and the opposing side files their ANSWER or RESPONSE to it, then the original "initiating" side can then choose to REPLY to it.

    [/QUOTE]Wow! How dumb we all were. Friend, I would recommend that you ammend your reply to indicate why each word is relavent and when each is relavent and why they are different. Not all of us are legal scholars.
     
  23. TORACCIO New Member

    Torino, Italia
    italian
    I think you've made a perfect synthesis
     

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