"You don't start classes til three o'clock?" "Yes/No."

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Torontonian94

Member
English - Canadian
Let's say I ask someone whether they have classes starting at three o'clock.

Me - "You don't have classes till three o'clock?"
Them - "Nope."

Is "no" correct in this case whereby this person answers in confirmation that his classes do start at three.



Also, what if someone were to ask me the same question but instead I didn't have classes starting at three o'clock.

Them - "You don't have classes till three o'clock?"
Me - "Yes."

It's seems like this question and a question like the one below have the same structure and thus, one would assume answers to both have the same meaning since they both used "yes". Instead the one below is confirming I do love them and the answer above in my opinion is denying I have classes starting at three.

Them - "You don't love me?"
Me - "Yes, yes I do."


Would very much appreciate if someone offered some insight into this for me. Thanks!
 
Last edited:
  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I would fervently hope that the person replying to such questions would be a bit more expansive and explicit, since both the question ("You don't have classes till three o'clock?") AND the answer ("Nope.") are ambiguous: No, my last class for the day ends at two. OR: No, my first class of the day starts at three.
     

    Torontonian94

    Member
    English - Canadian
    I would fervently hope that the person replying to such questions would be a bit more expansive and explicit, since both the question ("You don't have classes till three o'clock?") AND the answer ("Nope.") are ambiguous: No, my last class for the day ends at two. OR: No, my first class of the day starts at three.
    Thanks!
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    The way to avoid the problem of receiving ambiguous answers is not to ask ambiguous questions.

    "You don't have classes till three o'clock?"
    "What time do your classes start?"
    "Do your classes start at three o'clock?"

    :)
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Many questions that include a negation have the same problem, such as "You don't want to go to the movie, do you?" It is not clear whether a "no" answer would mean agreement (because the statement is negative) or disagreement (because "no" usually means disagreement).

    Ewie is right: one should not ask such questions. However, knowing that one should not ask such questions does not guarantee that nobody else will ask them. In that case, Parla's solution is the best: give a longer answer: "That's right, I don't want to go" or "That's wrong, I do want to go." Even if the original question could have been phrased better, the responsibility for an ambiguous answer lies with the person who answered it.
     
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