Sunday, May 1, 2011

Say "Yes" in English

Today I telephoned a bicycle shop and asked, "Can you fix my bike tire? It has a hole in it." 

"You bet", answered the voice on the other end.

"You'll do it while I wait?"

"You bet" said the voice, a second time.

Hmmmm.   I thought about the non-native speaker of English who knows the phrase "Yes" but doesn't know how many other ways we have of saying the same thing! And on the telephone, this can present a challenge. Is this person saying yes, or no?

There are many ways of saying "YES" in English, and we don't teach these in English classes. We don't teach which are formal and which are informal.

Yeah, for example, is very informal.  NEVER say Yeah in a job interview unless you want somebody to show you where the door is. Yes is appropriate whenever you want to make a good and positive impression.

Certainly is a very upbeat affirmative response.  For example, you may ask a potential employer the question, "Is it okay if I give you a call in a few weeks to see if you've received my resume?", and the response "Certainly" would indicate that you are more than welcome to do so.  It is a green light.

Another popular way of saying Yes is "Of course". This is similar to certainly and implies an enthusiastic answer in the affirmative.

There are also regional differences.  The southern states often answer, "Yes, Sir" and "Yes, Ma'am" to men and women, respectively. Consider this very respectful, very deferential.

So these are a few ways in which Americans say Yes. 

Do you know of some others? Share them with us!!


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