Affirmative responses: not always so clear cut

English, though not exactly on the same context level as Chinese, can still present problematic nuances to second-language learners, even advanced ones. Consider the following possible affirmative responses (said in a fairly neutral voice) to the rather nerve-wracking request “Would you like to go out with me on Friday? To see that show? I hear it’s good”:

response using “Ok”
1. Ok!
2. Oh, Ok.
3. Oh, that’s Ok.

response using “right” and “yeah”
1. Yeah, right on.
2. Right. Yeah.
3. Yeah, right.

response using “sure”
1. Sure!
2. Ok… sure.
3: I’m sure.

Obviously, 1 means yes, 2 means a far less enthusiastic yes, and 3 means no. Any other questions?

2 thoughts on “Affirmative responses: not always so clear cut

  1. Linguistics professor to class: “Interestingly, in many languages a double negative can have a positive meaning, but a double positive never has a negative meaning.”

    Student: “Yeah, right.”

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