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    #1

    nod or shake?

    Suppose that I can't speak because of some reason.

    When someone asks me, "Can't you speak?"
    should I nod my head or shake my head?

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    #2

    Re: nod or shake?

    If you appeared distressed, the person asking would ask "Can you speak?" instead of using the negative.
    In that case, you would shake your head no.
    Not a teacher

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    #3

    Re: nod or shake?

    Thank you for your kind answer, allenman.
    But I want to know when asked with negative questions.

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    #4

    Re: nod or shake?

    I would shake my head for 'no'.

    Rover

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: nod or shake?

    It makes no difference whether the question is affirmative or negative. We always answer as if the question were affirmative.

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: nod or shake?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    I would shake my head for 'no'.

    Rover
    Me too. Some languages apply a yes/no response to the content of the question, and some apply a yes/no response to the truth value of the question. This makes for difficulties between a speaker of British English, and someone from, say, Japan. The polite (or at least uncontroversial) response to 'Don't you think?' is 'No'.

    The case is further confused by some cultures who use a shake of the head to mean 'Yes' (Bulgarians, for example).

    (Even between two English speakers, though, there is room for confusion. Last Christmas I asked my daughter 'Don't you want some tea?'. assuming she did. She answered 'Yes', and then looked at me like a madman when I brought her some.)

    b

  3. 5jj's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: nod or shake?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    (Even between two English speakers, though, there is room for confusion. Last Christmas I asked my daughter 'Don't you want some tea?'. assuming she did. She answered 'Yes', and then looked at me like a madman when I brought her some.)
    My daughter has done the same, but then my daughter enjoys being deliberately perverse at times. I think you'd agree, Bob, that most native speakers would have said 'no' in that situation?

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    #8

    Re: nod or shake?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    (Even between two English speakers, though, there is room for confusion. Last Christmas I asked my daughter 'Don't you want some tea?'. assuming she did. She answered 'Yes', and then looked at me like a madman when I brought her some.)
    Same in Polish... Whereas the preference is for "no" in such situations, "yes" is possible too. We often say, "Yes, you do or yes, you don't?" after getting our resopnse. I think I've heard it in English too.

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