Certainly or No problem?

brwen

Member
Chinese
Q: Can I ask you a question now, Mr Smith?
A: ____, but I am free in the afternoon.
Options:
A. Certainly; B. No problem

This is a problem my friend's met recently. She asked me which is better and I told her "No problem" should be used. But afterwards, she told me that she had consulted a lot of people, some of whom including one native speaker told her that "Certainly" should be used. While I think "Certainly" is more affirmative, and "No problem" means even though the answerer may not be free at the moment, s/he still chooses to help, I am puzzled and want to know opinions from members of this website. Thanks.
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The reason I wouldn't use "no problem" is the explanation Mr Smith puts at the end: "but I am free in the afternoon."

    "But" introduces an objection, something that opposes what he just said. I think that he might say "certainly" ~ He is willing to help her now, but he would rather talk to her later, when he is free.

    I wouldn't choose "no problem" because the "but ....." suggests to me that he is not free now, and that this is a problem, even though he is willing to help now if she chooses to ask him.

    I hope this makes sense.
     

    Bigote Blanco

    Senior Member
    With all due respect to our distiguished, forum member, Cagey, I have an opposite view on this issue. I would clearly pick A. Certainly. It's clear, formal and direct.

    Both are followed with the negative so I consider that a neutral item.

    B. No problem, comes across to me as too casual and an almost sloppy way of speech. It's way too informal to indicate a sincere desire to address my concerns seriously. I consider it poor language and slang and I am offended when someone says it to me.

    My opinion is strongly leaning toward A.

    Both are commonly heard in the US.

    An Extinguished Forum Member,
    Bigote
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    With all due respect to our distiguished, forum member, Cagey, I have an opposite view on this issue.
    [....]
    :confused:

    What I said ~ or at least what I intended to say ~ was that I would not pick "No problem", and that "certainly" was possible.

    My post begins with:
    The reason I wouldn't use "no problem" ...
    That is, I think we agree.

    :confused:
     
    Last edited:

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    :confused:

    What I said ~ or at least what I intended to say ~ was that I would not pick "No problem", and that "certainly" was possible.

    My post begins with:
    That is, I think we agree.

    :confused:
    I think that both of you agree, too. Though this remark might not fit the occasion, lately I've noticed that a lot of people are answering with "no problem" instead of "you're welcome" when somebody tells them "thank you". This use of "no problem" can sound a little rude or illogical to me.
     

    Bigote Blanco

    Senior Member
    OH! Upon reading your post again, I see "I wouldn't use "no problem". If your an old guy with bad eyes, I wouldn't use looks really close to I would use.:) I was quite surprised someone would pick, "No problem" as a good response.

    Then, we both agree that A. Certainly is the correct response to the question.
    Bigote
     
    I'm having trouble seeing how either response is logical. The question is "can I ask you a question now?" The answer seems to imply that Mr Smith is busy now (but available in the afternoon). Why would he say "certainly"? "No problem" has the same, err, problem.

    It seems to me that there should have been an option C: "I'm busy right now, but I am free in the afternoon."
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I agree that the the answer "Certainly" does seem to go with what follows logically. However, this conversation is a fair representation of how people interact socially in situations like this. They don't want to refuse a direct request, and perhaps are even thinking that if it's urgent they can do it, though they would rather not. So they accept politely, and leave it to the other person to pick up on the cues that later would be better. Then the other person can accept the suggested later time, or explain why it would be better not to wait.

    Learning how to navigate this kind of thing must be tricky for learners of any language.
     
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