No, it isn't.

Ben Jamin

Senior Member
Polish
Take a look at this conversation:
John: The book isn't well written.
Jack: Yes, the book is very well written.


In some languages the second line will have a "No" at the beginning:
No, the book is very well written.
The difference is that in English "yes" means "I am making a positive statement", but in others "I agree with you".

This leads often to misunderstanding when people speak English as a second language. Even advanced learners have a problem with shedding the way of thinking what yes and no means in their language, and this is rarely taught.

Now the question:
What is it like in your language? Is the meaning of yes/no like in English or the other way round?
 
  • Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Japanese would have:
    No, the book is very well written.

    A Yes/No question in Japanese is an evaluation to the statement previously made. By the way, how about Polish?
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hi Ben_Jamin,

    This is from my post in Nordic Languages, right?
    In that post I actually said this use didn't seem quite right (I was providing an English example to the question Silver_Biscuit asked in Icelandic).

    My post said:

    If Gunnar thinks it was well written, and Jón just said it isn't well written, why would she be saying yes /?

    John: The book isn't well written.
    Jack: Yes, the book is very well written.


    It just doesn't seem right to me.:eek:
    So, although we found out this is correct in Icelandic, responding with to a generally negative statement to show contrast, what I said was that the English was not something I considered to be 'normal/correct'.

    I just wanted to point that out because I don't think this use of "Yes" is normal in English, to avoid confusion I thought I'd post here just clarifying.
    Using 'Yes' here immediately is like a confirmation of what the other person has said, so to then go on and say something different, it doesn't make logical sense (at least to me).

    I hope this clears up some confusion you were having about how English works :D!!
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hello,
    I have to agree with Alxmrphi.
    The hit song from the roaring twenties "Yes! We have no bananas." was a sucess for this very reason.
    While Yes may well be the correct answer to a customers question*, in juxtaposition with a negative response it does sound funny in English.

    * as in your question "The book isn't well written." ; perhaps the "yes" is answering to the "not". :)
     
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    Maroseika

    Moderator
    Russian
    In Russian both answers are possible and both have the same negative sense:

    - You don't have bananas?
    - Yes/no, we don't have bananas - mean the same.

    The reason is that Russian "no" (нет) means two things: 'no' and 'there's no'.
    So 'No, we don't have bananas' may mean:
    No, we don't have bananas.
    and
    There's no, we don't have bananas.

    All this is because etymologically russian 'no' means 'is not': нет <*не ѥ ту (is not here).
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Since no one has mentioned this, you might find it interesting to know that French has two words for yes, to make it very clear if you are just answering a simple yes/no question or else contradicting a negative supposition.

    Tu vas au cinéma? Oui, j'y vais.
    Are you going to the movie theatre? Yes, I am

    Tu ne vas pas au cinéma? Si, j'y vais.
    Aren't you going to the movie theatre? Yes, I am


    Which means...
    John: The book isn't well written. Le livre n'est pas bien écrit
    Jack: Yes, the book is very well written. Si, le livre est très bien écrit


    As for the English, I think I might add some more emphasis to make it sound clearer to my ears.
    John: The book isn't well written
    Jack: Yes it is, it's very well written.
    Yes of course it is
     
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    Encolpius

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Hungarian

    - Nem valami jó ez a könyv! [the book is not very good]
    - Igen, nem valami jó! [yes, (it's) not very good]

    - Nem valami jó ez a könyv! [the book is not very good]
    - De igen, jó! [lit.: but yes, (it's) good]

    and how about this English sentence:

    - The book is not very good!
    - (A) Yes, it is not very good! OR (B) No, it is not very good! :idea:

    In Hungarian we'd use (A), but I think English would use (B)
     

    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    John: The book isn't well written.
    Jack: Yes, the book is very well written.


    In some languages the second line will have a "No" at the beginning:
    No, the book is very well written.
    In Macedonian would be used Не (Ne) "No":

    John: Книгата не е добро напишана. (Knigata ne e dobro napišana.) lit. The-book no is well written.
    Jack:
    Не, книгата е многу добро напишана. (Ne, knigata e mnogu dobro napišana.) lit. No, the-book is very well written.

    The better way to disagree with the statement is to use the adverb напротив (naprotiv) "on the contrary", "contrariwise":

    Jack: Напротив, книгата е многу добро напишана. (Naprotiv, knigata e mnogu dobro napišana.) lit. On-the-contrary, the-book is very well written.
     
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    apmoy70

    Senior Member
    Greek
    In Greek:

    «Το βιβλίο αυτό δεν είναι πολύ καλό» [tɔ vivˈli.ɔ afˈtɔ ðen ˈine pɔˈli kaˈlɔ] --> this book is not very good
    «Ναι, δεν είναι» [ne ðen ˈi.ne] --> yes, it's not
    «Όχι, είναι καλό» [ˈɔ.çi ˈi.ne kaˈlɔ] --> no, it is good
     

    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Since no one has mentioned this, you might find it interesting to know that French has two words for yes, to make it very clear if you are just answering a simple yes/no question or else contradicting a negative supposition.

    Tu vas au cinéma? Oui, j'y vais.
    Are you going to the movie theatre? Yes, I am

    Tu ne vas pas au cinéma? Si, j'y vais.
    Aren't you going to the movie theatre? Yes, I am
    Yes I become aware that French is specific about this.
    Is it the only language to have this specificity?

    It's interesting to note that "si" directly comes from Latin sic (so/in this way), whereas "oui" went through predecessor languages like oïl in Langue d'oïl, or oc in Occitan, themselves both coming from Latin hoc (here/this).
    In Russian both answers are possible and both have the same negative sense
    What about this Russian answer I always found charming: да нет (lit. "yes no")
     
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    Yes I become aware that French is specific about this.
    Is it the only language to have this specificity?
    Doch has several idiomatic meanings in German, one of these is pretty similar to the French :
    • Ich bin klüger als du.
    • Nein, bist du nicht.
    • Doch, bin ich doch.

    • I am smarter than you.
    • No, you are not.
    • Yes I am.
     
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    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    John: The book isn't well written.
    Jack: Yes, the book is very well written.

    In some languages the second line will have a "No" at the beginning:
    In the second phrase I would use "No" at the beginning, because I'm negating the first statement.


    John: The book isn't well written.
    Jack: Yes, the book is very well written.


    Sardinian :
    Juanne : Su liberu no est iscrittu bene
    Jagu : Non, su liberu est iscrittu bene meda.
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    If we don’t agree with the statement « This book isn’t very well written. ». It would be more usual to say:
    I don’t agree, I think it is well written. But, people tend to use No to signify disagree in this case, even if yes were grammatically correct.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    We can contradict in English with an emphatic "Yes it is; it's very well written" - but not usually with a simple "Yes".
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Well, it seems that I was mislead by some non-representative examples to believe that the simple yes works like that in English. It does, however in Norwegian, like this:
    Du har ikke gjort jobben din? (You haven't done your task?)
    Nei (no). (which means here: I agree with you, I haven't done it).
    Saying Ja (yes) will mean that the person denies the supposition in the question.
    To avoid ambiguity one usually adds: Nei, jeg har ikke gjort det (No, I' haven't).
    Foreigners in Norway often fall in this trap, which leads to misunderstanding and conflict.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It works like that in English too, Ben, when we are just answering a question. Your example seems to be a simple yes/no question, so I'm surprised foreigners in Norway would have difficulties with it.

    In the original example in post #1, A statement was being refuted.

    John: The book isn't well written.
    Jack: Yes, the book is very well written.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    It works like that in English too, Ben, when we are just answering a question. Your example seems to be a simple yes/no question, so I'm surprised foreigners in Norway would have difficulties with it.

    In the original example in post #1, A statement was being refuted.

    John: The book isn't well written.
    Jack: Yes, the book is very well written.
    I am not sure if I have understood you right. Do you mean that it works the same as in Norwegian?
    Let us hold to my new example:
    A: "You haven't done your job?
    B: (native Norwegian) Yes. (meaning "I agree with you, I haven't".)
    C: (non native Norwegian) No. (meaning "I confirm, I haven't".)
    A: responding to C and concluding that C is lying: "How dare you?"
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Du har ikke gjort jobben din? (You haven't done your task?)
    Nei (no). (which means here: I agree with you, I haven't done it).
    Saying Ja (yes) will mean that the person denies the supposition in the question.
    To avoid ambiguity one usually adds: Nei, jeg har ikke gjort det (No, I' haven't).
    Sorry, I don't think I was getting your point. :)

    Haven't you done your task?
    Yes I have/No, I haven't.


    A simple "Yes" doesn't work as an answer in English either. "No" by itself would work in English.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I suppose we should contrast an answer to a general question containing a negation and an objection to a statement containing a negation; languages may react differently to such contexts. In Russian, "yes" confirms the negation in the both situations and "no" is ambiguous.

    - So you haven't done your homework?
    - Yes (I haven't.)
    - No (I haven't.)
    - No (I have.)

    - It is not a car.
    - Yes (it is not a car).
    - No (it is not a car).
    - No (it is a car).

    Often an intonation helps a great deal, but if it doesn't, you also have to repeat at least the verb or, if it is a zero copula, the relevant part of the predicate. (A non-zero copula is either repeated alone or replaced depending on the more precise grammatical context.)

    - Это не автомобиль. ("This not car.")
    - Нет, (это) автомобиль. ("No, (this) car.")
    - Ты не выучил стихотворение? ("You not have.learned(masc.sg.) rhyme?")
    - Нет, не выучил. ("No, not have.learned(masc.sg.).")
    - Оно не красное. ("It not red(neut.sg.).")
    - Нет, (оно) красное. ("No, (it) red(neut.sg.).")

    Some languages may even have different "yes" and "no" words for different contexts. Russian, however, is pretty traditional in that regard.
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    In standard Arabic, and in some dialects that retained the distinction, there are two types of yes and a no.
    لا (laa) - No confirms the negative and negates the positive. This means that it always means "no" whether the question is negative or positive.
    نعم (na'am) - yes always confirms what is said whether the question is negative or positive.
    بلى (bala) - yes, confirms the positive and negates the negative. This means that it always means "yes".

    Are you coming?
    laa means I'm not coming (always means "no")
    na'am means I am coming (always agrees, whether yes or no)
    bala means I am coming (always means "yes")

    Aren't you coming?
    laa means I'm not coming
    na'am means I'm not coming
    bala means I am coming
     
    Take a look at this conversation:
    John: The book isn't well written.
    Jack: Yes, the book is very well written.
    If it's a statement, it would most likely be agreed in Spanish with ya (lit. "already").

    - El libro no está bien escrito
    - Ya
    (you're right, the book isn't well written)

    If you want to contradict the statement, I'd use
    no (most probably echoing the statement to get it clear):

    - El libro no está bien escrito
    - No, sí está bien escrito
    ("No, it is indeed well written")

    You can't also answer more emphatically with a ¡qué va! (lit. "what goes").
     
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