No, it isn't.

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Ben Jamin, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    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?
  2. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    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?
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    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:

    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!!
  4. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    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". :)
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2010
  5. Maroseika Moderator

    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.
    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).
  6. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    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
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
  7. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (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)

Share This Page