This entry explains how to reply to `yes/no'-questions and `wh'-questions which are being used to ask for information.
Other ways of replying to things that people say are explained in the entries at ↑ Agreeing and disagreeing; ↑ Apologizing; ↑ Complimenting and congratulating someone; ↑ Greetings and goodbyes; ↑ Invitations; ↑ Offers; ↑ Requests, orders, and instructions; ↑ Suggestions; andThanking someone.
replying to 'yes/no'-questions
When you reply to a positive `yes/no'-question, you say `Yes' if the situation referred to exists and `No' if the situation does not exist.

`Did you enjoy it?' —-`Yes, it was very good.'

`Have you tried Woolworth's?' —-`Yes, I think we've tried them all.'

`Have you decided what to do?' —-`Not yet, no.'

`Did he lose his job?' —-`No. They sent him home.'

You can add an appropriate tag such as `I have' or `it isn't'. Sometimes the tag is said first.

`Are they very complicated?' —-`Yes, they are. They have quite a number of elements.'

`Have you ever been hypnotised by anyone?' —-`No, no I haven't.'

`Did you have a look at the shop when you were there?' —-`I didn't, no.'

Some people say `Yeah' instead of `Yes' when speaking informally.

`Have you got one?' —-`Yeah.'

People sometimes make the sound `Mm' instead of saying `Yes'.

`Is it very expensive?' —-`Mm, it's quite pricey.'

Sometimes you can answer a question with an adverb of degree.

`Did she like it?' —-`Oh, very much, said it was marvellous.'

`Has he talked to you?' —-`A little. Not much.'

If you feel a `No' answer is not quite accurate, you can say `Not really' or `Not exactly' instead or as well.

`Right, is that any clearer now?' —-`Not really, no.'

`Have you thought at all about what you might do?' —-`No, not really.'

`Has Davis suggested that?' —-`Not exactly, but I think he'd be glad to get away.'

If the question has `or' in it, you reply with a word or group of words that indicates what the situation is. You only use a whole clause for emphasis or if you want to make your answer really clear.

`Do you want traveller's cheques or currency?' —-`Traveller's cheques.'

`Are they undergraduate courses or postgraduate courses?' —-`Mainly postgraduate.'

`Are cultured pearls synthetic or are they real pearls?' —-`They are real pearls, but a tiny piece of mother-of-pearl has been inserted in each oyster.'

Often when people ask a question, they do not want just a `Yes' or `No' answer; they want detailed information of some kind. In reply to questions like this, people sometimes do not say `Yes' or `No' but just give the information, often after `Well'.

`Do you have any plans yourself for any more research in this area?' —-`Well, I hope to look more at mixed ability teaching.'

`Did you find any difficulties when you were interviewing people from the University?' —-`Well, most of them are very articulate, and in fact the problem on occasions was actually shutting them up!'

replying to negative 'yes/no'-questions
Negative `yes/no'-questions are usually used when the speaker thinks the answer will be, or should be, `Yes'.
You should reply to questions of this kind with `Yes' if the situation does exist and `No' if the situation does not exist, just as you would reply to a positive question. For example, if someone says `Hasn't James phoned?', you reply `No' if he hasn't phoned.

`Haven't they just had a conference or something?' —-`Yes.'

`Haven't you any socks or anything with you?' —-`Well — oh, yes — in that suitcase.'

`Didn't he comment on your research, or your style, or anything?' —-`No. He just called it good.'

`Didn't you like it, then?' —-`Not much.'

If you are replying to a negative statement which is said as a question, you reply `No' if the statement is true.

`So you've never been guilty of physical violence?' —-`No.'

`You didn't mind me coming in?' —-`No, don't be daft.'

If you are replying to a positive statement said as a question, you reply `Yes' if the statement is true.

`He liked it?' —-`Yes, he did.'

`You've heard me speak of Angela?' —-`Oh, yes.'

replying when uncertain
If you do not know the answer to a `yes/no'-question, you say `I don't know' or `I'm not sure'.

`Did they print the list?' —-`I don't know.'

`Is there any chance of you getting away this summer?' —-`I'm not sure.'

You can also sometimes use `could', `might', or `may'.

`Is it yours?' —-`It could be.'

`Is there a file on me somewhere?' —-`Well, there might be.'

`Did you drive down that road towards Egletons on Friday morning?' —-`I might have done.'

If you think the situation probably exists, you say `I think so'.

`Do you understand?' —-`I think so.'

`Will he be all right?' —-`Yes, I think so.'

American speakers often say `I guess so'.

`Can we go inside?' —-`I guess so.'

If you are making a guess, you can also say `I should think so', `I would think so', `I expect so', or `I imagine so'.

`Will Sarah be going?' —-`I would think so, yes.'

`Did you say anything when I first came up to you?' —-`Well, I expect so, but how on earth can I remember now?'

If you are rather unenthusiastic or unhappy about the situation, you say `I suppose so'.

`Are you on speaking terms with them now?' —-`I suppose so.'

If you think the situation probably does not exist, you say `I don't think so'.

`Was there any paper in the safe?' —-`I don't think so.'

`Did you ever meet Mr Innes?' —-`No, I don't think so.'

If you are making a guess, you can also say `I shouldn't think so', `I wouldn't think so', or `I don't expect so'.

`Would Nick mind, do you think?' —-`No, I shouldn't think so.'

`Is my skull fractured?' —-`I shouldn't think so.'

replying to 'wh'-questions
In replying to `wh'-questions, people usually use one word or a group of words instead of a full sentence.

`How old are you?' —-`Thirteen.'

`How do you feel?' —-`Strange.'

`What sort of iron did she get?' —-`A steam iron.'

`Where are we going?' —-`Up the coast.'

`Why did you run away?' —-`Because Michael lied to me.'

Sometimes, however, a full sentence is used, for example when giving the reason for something.

`Why did you quarrel with your wife?' —-`She disapproved of what I'm doing.'

If you do not know the answer, you say `I don't know' or `I'm not sure'.

`What shall we do?' —-`I don't know.'

`How old were you then?' —-`I'm not sure.'


Useful english dictionary. 2012.

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