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When should I answer in short and when should I answer in long? In real life which of following answer is used?

Did you read that book?

  • Yes.
  • Yes, I did.
  • Yes, I read it.
  • Yes, I did. I read the book.
  • No.
  • No, I did not.
  • No, I did not read it.
  • No, I did not. I did not read it.
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It all depends on the context and your intention. All those are OK depending. The fourth might be better said as 'Yes, I did. I did read the book'. –  Mitch Feb 15 '13 at 16:06
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This question is a better fit for our sister site specifically for English Language Learners. –  RegDwigнt Feb 15 '13 at 16:36
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closed as not a real question by Robusto, tchrist, FumbleFingers, Matt Эллен, James McLeod Feb 15 '13 at 17:19

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

All of them are technically correct.

A very short response can seem curt and gruff, so we might extend the answer to avoid that impression.

A very short response might be ambiguous in the context of a given question, and a longer response clearer.

A short response might be preferable if we are answering a series of questions.

Some dialects favour one form or another. Hiberno-English would favour "I did" (especially in informal use) or "Yes, I did", or "I did, yes" as a legacy of the lack of a single-word for yes or no in Irish affecting how English is spoken in Ireland.*

A longer response might also be used for emphasis, particularly if the question seemed to assume a "no", while the answer is "yes":

Did you not read that book?

Yes, I did read it.

Here we're not just answering the question's at the bare level of information conveyed, but also responding to the accusatory nuance that negative questions can have.

Conversely, if the context suggests a perfunctory check where the querent is expecting the answer you are going to give, that might lean us towards a bare yes or no.

By extension, adding much more information than required may seem just as gruff as giving the bare minimum: The form "Yes, I did. I read the book" answers the question three times. If there was no reason to emphasise it that much, it may seem overly adamant to the point of being slightly rude.

Irrelevant to your examples, but relevant to the more general question: If the question is about whether we want something, or want somebody to do something, then "Yes, please" or "No, thank you" is considered much more polite. This can be extended further such as "Yes, I would, please", "Yes, I'd like that very much, thank you", "No, I'd rather not, but thank you for asking", etc.

*Sadly this leads to a new ambiguity, because "I don't, no" sounds close to "I don't know". I have found that if an airport security guard asks if you have any electronics in your luggage, it is inadvisable to answer "I don't, no".

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The distinction in English might be called one of formality, with longer answers (complete sentences) being more formal, there is no concrete rule. You answer based on the dynamic of the conversation and the expectations of the other in your dialogue, plus the impression you are trying to create. Some of the permutations you present, though, are a bit more than most would say, and some seem to smack of a particular voice in speech as opposed to simply conforming to a rule of semantic completeness. In fact, from the stylized nature of some of the answers, one could infer tone and a subtle difference in meaning. Saying "I read it" vs. "I read the book" might lead one to hear more anger in the former in the refusal to name the verb. But that is in the ear of the beholder.

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