Short answers

This page has information about a common way to respond to questions and statements: short answers.


Many questions can be answered simply with Yes or No. For example, Do you have a dog? or Have you ever been to New York?

But these one-word answers are often considered impolite or too abrupt. So instead you could answer: No, I don't have a dog or Yes, I have been to New York. However, there's a problem with these answers too. They sound unnatural and contain redundant A message has redundant information when it contains more words than it needs to convey the intended meaning. information.

Short answers to questions: yes and no

Fortunately there is a middle ground between answers that are considered impolite and those that are considered unnatural. Here are some examples:

  • Do you have a dog? - Yes, I do.
  • Have you ever been to New York? - No, I haven't.
  • Was John at the meeting yesterday? - No he wasn't.
  • Is she coming to your party? - Yes, she is.
  • Will you be home before 7 o'clock? - No, I won't.
  • Must you go now? - Yes, I must.

Short responses with 'of course'

Short answers are often prefaced by 'of course Note that the short answers below are generally spoken without a pause. This is the reason for the absence of a comma after Of course. ', resulting in responses such as the following:

  • Can I come to your party? - Of course you can.
  • You don't love me any more. - Of course I do!
  • You've forgotten it's my mother's birthday today. - Of course I haven't.
  • You won't tell anyone my secret, will you? - Of course I won't.

Short responses with 'but'

Short responses can also start with But to express contradiction or denial of the truth of positive or negative statements.

  • Why did you tell him? - But I didn't.
  • You haven't fed the cat. - But I have.
  • You aren't listening to me. - But I am.
  • Why wasn't he at school yesterday? - But he was.

Note: The but + short response construction is useful because, unlike German The German word is Doch!

For example: Du liebst mich nicht. - Doch! (You don't love me. - But I do!)
, English does not have an additional word to deny a statement. For example, you cannot deny the statement You don't love me with just Yes! or No! [ More on this ]

Short answer grammar notes

In the short answers above the auxiliary verb from the question or statement is repeated, but without the main verb. And the auxiliary is negated Note that the negation is usually contracted: No, I won't, No, he doesn't, etc.

If the negation is uncontracted, it sounds more forceful and may possibly be considered impolite: No, I will not, No, he does not.
if the answer is No or a denial.

Short answer agreement

A further kind of short response is the agreement with positive (so) and negative (neither) statements. Note how the subject and verb are reversed An exception is So it is. For example, Look, it's snowing! - So it is. as in questions.

  • I hate history class. - So do I.
  • My mother's a lawyer. - So is mine!
  • I'm not hungry - Neither am I.
  • I've never ridden a horse. - Neither has my sister, but I have!

Avoiding impoliteness with short answers

Of course, sometimes even these short answers may be considered too abrupt. So, it is common to add some explanatory or additional information. For example:

  • Have you ever been to New York? - No, I haven't. But I'm hoping to go there next year.
  • Is she coming to your party? - Yes, she is. But she said she might not arrive until quite late.
  • You've forgotten it's my mother's birthday today. - Of course, I haven't. But I did forget to buy her a present.

Short answer practice

There are is practice in writing short answers in the Verb grammar: Miscellaneous drop-down menu on the Grammar index.