Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1
    learning54's Avatar
    learning54 is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • Spanish
      • Home Country:
      • Spain
      • Current Location:
      • Spain
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    1,125
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Confusion in terminology, 'Yes/No Questions'

    Hi teachers,
    My only serious concern is a confusion in terminology.

    Are all of them 'Yes/No Questions' or the only ones are 'a' and 'b'?
    If that is so, then 'c' and 'd' are negative questions, aren't they?

    a) Is this a pencil? Yes it is. / No, it isn't.
    b) Are they cats? Yes, they are. No, they aren't.
    c) Isn't this a pencil? Yes it is. / No, it isn't.
    d) Aren't they cats? Yes, they are. No, they aren't.


    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Grumpy's Avatar
    Grumpy is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    735
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Confusion in terminology, 'Yes/No Questions'

    All of the questions invite "Yes/No" answers, but, as you have identified, c) and d) are not straightforward.

    Questions a) and b) are neutral questions. The questioner is not placing any emphasis on whether you should answer "yes" or "no". However, in c) and d), by using this style of phraseology (as you say, a "negative question"), the questioner is actually inviting you to agree that this is indeed a pencil, and that they are cats. So, if you agree that it is a pencil, you will answer "Yes" - short for "Yes, it is a pencil", and so on.
    Similarly, if you were asked "Don't you like cats?", the answer would be either "No" (short for "No, I don't like cats") or "Yes" (I do like cats). In English, if you want to confirm the negation of a negative question, you do it by using the negative particle "no". It's also called a polarity-based system. The simplest way around it is to treat the negative question as if it were a neutral question, and answer accordingly. In other words, answer the question "Don't you like cats?" as if you had been asked "Do you like cats?" However, to avoid any chance of being misunderstood, it's always best to reply to this type of question in full, eg "No, I can't stand cats!"
    I'm not a teacher of English, but I have spoken it for (almost) all of my life....

  3. #3
    learning54's Avatar
    learning54 is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • Spanish
      • Home Country:
      • Spain
      • Current Location:
      • Spain
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    1,125
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Confusion in terminology, 'Yes/No Questions'

    Hi Grumpy,
    Thanks a lot for your help and thank goodness that you are not a teacher.

    L.

  4. #4
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    22,748
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Confusion in terminology, 'Yes/No Questions'

    It's not really a grammar explanation, but when I was being trained to interview people about their travel, we were simply told to avoid "closed questions" (those with a Yes/No answer) and only ask "open questions" (where Yes/No were not possible answers).

    Those are the terms I've generally used to my students.

    Here is an example of a poorly worded interview:

    Did you travel here on your own today?
    Yes.
    Did you travel here by plane?
    Yes.
    Did you board the plane in Paris?
    No.
    Did you pay for your ticket yourself?
    Yes.
    Have you come here to work?
    No.

    Here's how it should look:

    Who did you travel with today?
    No-one, I came here on my own.
    How did you get here?
    I came by plane.
    Where did you board the aircraft.
    In Rome. We stopped in Paris for an hour but I didn't get off the plane.
    Who paid for your ticket?
    I paid for it out of my savings.
    What are you going to do in the UK?
    I've come here on holiday and I'm going to visit my uncle.
    Will you do anything else?
    I might work in a bar for a couple of hours a night.

    As far as English teaching is concerned, and as you can see, closed questions might be OK for beginners, simply to show understanding, but in order to progress with sentence constructions, open questions should be used as often as possible.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  5. #5
    learning54's Avatar
    learning54 is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • Spanish
      • Home Country:
      • Spain
      • Current Location:
      • Spain
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    1,125
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Confusion in terminology, 'Yes/No Questions'

    As far as English teaching is concerned, and as you can see, closed questions might be OK for beginners, simply to show understanding, but in order to progress with sentence constructions, open questions should be used as often as possible.
    Hi,
    Thanks a lot for those examples and for your comments on English teaching.
    I can only agree with you. What else?

    L.

Similar Threads

  1. [Grammar] Terminology
    By Lily of the valley in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 03-May-2012, 06:37
  2. Terminology
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 10-Sep-2007, 01:15
  3. HR terminology
    By Haidarieh in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 23-May-2007, 07:42
  4. i need the terminology
    By joeneverland in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 01-Mar-2006, 21:12
  5. Need Terminology Help
    By Spirrah in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 04-Nov-2005, 18:39

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •