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English sentences can be very fascinating... or downright confusing, depends on how you look at it.

For example, if A asks B:"You don't think the Josh is right on this, do you", and B answers:"No, I don't" and then FULL STOP. No further clarification will come from B.

So, how should we interpret B's answer? Is B thinking that Josh is right, or is B thinking that Josh is wrong? Is B agreeing with A, or disagreeing?

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I think you missed the words after the comma (do you), didn't you? –  VijayaRagavan Aug 17 '13 at 6:53
    
Why not this instead: "Do you agree with Josh?" –  Jeff Cohan Aug 17 '13 at 7:43
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@JeffCohan, not everyone asks questions in the manner we dictate. –  Graviton Aug 17 '13 at 8:00
    
Very true, @Graviton. I'm agreeing that the exchange you quoted is confusing. If you were wondering how to ask the question so as to simplify things, I'd ask it differently (as I suggested above). If you're trying to decipher the "No, I don't" answer, it might just be best to rephrase the question more simply. That's all I'm saying. PS: B thinks Josh is wrong. –  Jeff Cohan Aug 17 '13 at 8:08
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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Aug 17 '13 at 9:45

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1 Answer

— You don't think Josh is right on this, do you?
— No, I don't.

There is no ambiguity here: person B disagrees with Josh. “No, I don't” is elliptical for, “No, I don't think Josh is right on this”.

The question being answered is, “You don't think […], do you?”. The answer answers whether or not the person thinks […] or not—it does not answer to whatever may be in the […] part of the sentence.

However, especially colloquially, the word ‘no’ can also be used in an answer that means the exact opposite:

— You don't think Josh is right on this, do you?
— No, I do! // Yes, I do.

In this case, both yes and no would mean the same. Yes would be an answer in the positive (“I do”), while no would mean that the person disagrees with the premise being put forth.

Using no in this fashion (no + answer in the positive) feels to me quite colloquial and somewhat un-thought-through, though I don't know if this is just my feeling or a general thing.

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I see it as B agreeing with A. He is confirming A's suspect that Josh is not right. The question tag, "do you (agree)?" is asking whether B agrees or not. –  Mari-Lou A Aug 18 '13 at 3:50
    
See this answer: english.stackexchange.com/a/106444/44619 –  Mari-Lou A Aug 18 '13 at 4:12
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