How to Answer Negative Questions

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Meaning of negative questions

Negative questions are questions that are formed using the negative particle ‘not’ in interrogative sentences. Most often, the negative particle is used after the the auxiliary verb in the interrogative sentence.
E.g Is she not beautiful?
Does she not understand English?
Have you not done the work?

We use the contracted form in less formal or spoken conversation. When we use the contracted form, we add n’t to the auxiliary verb in the interrogative construction.
E.g Isn’t she beautiful?
Doesn’t she understand English?
Haven’t you done the work? etc.

Negative questions are used for the following reasons;
i. For confirmation. E.g isn’t the boy a thief?
The speaker knows or suspects the boy is a thief, as a result, this question is only asking for confirmation from the listener.
Is the boy a thief?
The speaker does not know if the boy is a thief.

ii. Negative questions can also be used to express surprise.

Situation; I see Mohammed drinking alcohol at a drinking spot. I am surprised to see him in that situation because I have always seen him going to mosque. So, I then ask;
Aren’t you a Muslim?

How to Answer Negative Questions

How to answer negative questions is one of the perplexing ambiguities of English Language. These questions are only used with YES or NO questions, however, a YES or NO response to these questions in some instances can be ambiguous.
Question; Don’t you have money?
This response is ambiguous because the YES could mean the respondent has money or otherwise.

The best way to answer these questions is to use short sentences, instead of a YES or a NO in order to avoid giving ambiguous responses.

Usage Examples

Question; Don’t you have a seat?
Response 1; No, I don’t have.
Response 2; Yes, I have

Question; Isn’t she a thief?
Response 1; No, she isn’t.
Response 2; Yes, she is.

Question; Can’t you come for the money yourself?
Response 1; No, I can’t. Or I will be sending my mother to the hospital.
Response 2; Yes, I can, I’m less busy today.

It is important to note that, not only using YES or NO, accompanied by a statement, we can equally use a statement that suggests we are affirming or otherwise in our responses.

How to Respond to Questions that use ‘WOULD YOU MIND’

A question that is worded using ‘WOULD YOU MIND’ requires a NO response as an affirmative answer and a YES as a negative answer.

Question; Would you mind sending me your address?

Response 1; No.
Explanation of this response.
The person who gives this response is willing or ready to send the one asking the question their address.

However, someone who answers NO is not willing or ready to send their address to the one asking the question.

To be more formal and even polite, it is more appropriate to use a statement after the YES or NO response, even though, a YES or a NO response is equally correct grammatically, and does not raise questions of ambiguity.

Usage Examples

Question; Would mind teaching me tonight?
Response 1; No, I wouldn’t since I will not be doing anything.
Response 2; Yes, I will be watching the Champions League final.

Question; Would you mind coming to my house for lunch?
Response 1; No, it is always an honor to dine with your family.
Response 2; Yes, we have a Board meeting at 12 pm.

Most people consider it rude to simply give a YES answer to this type of questions since the answer is negative, so it always better to use a statement after YES.

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