Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I was asked an interesting question today, is there an English equivalent of the saying Zwijgen is instemmen, that is "since you didn't answer, then you agreed with me".

I could not come up with any good example; although I could think of a few similar, but not quite the same, including the following:

  • I'll take that as a 'yes' then.
  • I don't hear any No's.

The first is different, since you could also use it if an answer was given, but was not sufficiently clear. The second is different since it is much weaker, it is tacitly agreed that you didn't agree, but you also didn't disasgree.

Is there any idiom for your silence implies your consent?

share|improve this question
19  
Qui tacet consentit –  Daniel Dec 21 '11 at 20:38
2  
No idioms that I can think of, but variations on silence is/implies consent/agreement/acquiescence abound. –  Daniel Dec 21 '11 at 20:46
    
Daniel, if you made an answer out of that, I would vote it up! –  Paul Wagland Dec 21 '11 at 20:58
10  
Per Daniel's comment: The phrase "tacit consent" pretty much covers the intended meaning. Also, "speak now or forever hold your peace," from the standard wedding ceremony is similar. Jocularly, the auctioneer's "going once, going twice..." can be used conversationally as well. –  The Raven Dec 21 '11 at 21:15
1  
@Danielδ - Nice link you provided - must bookmark it. –  Larry Morries Dec 23 '11 at 0:42
show 9 more comments

10 Answers 10

up vote 30 down vote accepted

I am not sure this qualifies as an idiom, but is a common enough expression: I would express it "unless I hear otherwise".

Unless I hear otherwise, I am going to leave at 4:00.

share|improve this answer
8  
Or "unless someone objects" ... ? –  David Schmitt Dec 22 '11 at 12:19
add comment

There is a legal phrase 'silence is acquiescence', which I have seen used somewhat in business.

The trick, in business, is to soften it a bit to show that it is trying to spare someone from being obliged to reply (to an email, for example).

I have used this, as an example:

Dear team,

I propose that we reboot the server in 5 minutes.

No reply necessary. Silence is acquiescence.

share|improve this answer
5  
+1. I've also heard "silence is consent" (which, going by Google, seems to be even more common) and "silence is concurrence" (which seems to be less common). –  ruakh Dec 22 '11 at 1:30
    
see the NGram for that –  sq33G Dec 22 '11 at 7:55
add comment

It's possible that the word you're looking for is tacit, which means to be understood or implied without being stated.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Sure. There is the phrase, "Silence is consent", sometimes given as "silence implies consent" or "silence is assent".

share|improve this answer
    
More often, and of long standing, is "Silence lends assent". –  H Stephen Straight Dec 27 '11 at 23:17
    
Well, I don't recall ever hearing "Silence lends assent", and it rates well below "silence is assent" on Google ngram. Not to say it isn't used. –  Jay Dec 31 '11 at 4:48
add comment

Speak now or forever hold your peace.

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 This comes from wedding ceremonies, but is recognized and understood universally (in English). –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Dec 22 '11 at 16:44
    
@BlueRaja: I doubt the first occurence of Speak now or forever hold...peace was in the context of a wedding, but you're right that this is the context we're all familiar with today. –  FumbleFingers Dec 22 '11 at 22:13
    
Probably adding a "May" or "Please" in front would look better? - Please speak now or forever hold your peace ~or~ May speak now or forever hold your peace –  Larry Morries Dec 23 '11 at 0:43
3  
This is too tied to the wedding ceremony. I would be very surprise to see this idiom in a contract, or in oral speech (without implying the reference to the wedding ceremony) –  rds Dec 23 '11 at 10:56
2  
@rds: on the contrary, I think it is used often, though perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek, in oral communication. –  Wikis Dec 24 '11 at 21:29
add comment

I think this might be what you are looking for:

Silence gives consent.

Google it, I believe it's a direct translation of "Qui tacet consentire".

By the way, German/English Dutch/English is not the only language that has this phrase. I know for a fact that there is a Russian expression that, translated literally to English, sounds something like: "Silence is a sign of agreement".

Also, here's what Ngram Viewer shows: enter image description here

share|improve this answer
2  
In Sanskrit, which, like Latin, is a Indo-European language, it is "Maunam Sweekruti Lakshanan" which translates as "Silence is a sign of acceptance". –  Dilip Sarwate Dec 22 '11 at 3:15
    
It's in classic and modern Hebrew as well. And I believe that the NGram of this version vs "silence is consent" as per above is even more telling. –  sq33G Dec 22 '11 at 7:57
1  
Didn't the same idiom exists in German and Russian, but I know the same idiom exists in Arabic language: Al-Sokoot 'Alamat Al-Ridha, meaning "The silence is the sign of acceptance." –  Promather Dec 22 '11 at 10:30
    
The French version is "Qui ne dit mot consent". Wiktionary link : en.wiktionary.org/wiki/qui_ne_dit_mot_consent –  Xavier T. Dec 22 '11 at 10:51
    
Uhm, where'd you get to German here? "Zwijgen is instemmen" is not, if that was what you referred to –  Tobias Kienzler Dec 22 '11 at 12:31
show 2 more comments

"Without objection...". We use this in parliamentary meetings. for example: "Without objection, so ordered." Or "Without objection, it has been moved to table the matter of ..." this is an expedited way of obtaining unanimous consent without incurring the delay of formal and explicit agreement.

share|improve this answer
    
I think nem. con. is more common, but it means the same. –  TimLymington Dec 22 '11 at 12:49
add comment

The phrase "tacit consent" refers to the consent given by the failure to dissent, although that isn't a standalone phrase. "Speak now or forever hold your peace" is used in the context of weddings, but doesn't get much use elsewhere.

Other than those, simply saying, "Your silence implies your consent" works just fine.

share|improve this answer
2  
Taciturn consent? Surely you mean tacit consent? –  Dilip Sarwate Dec 22 '11 at 13:47
    
Yes, I do. Thanks. –  fluffy Dec 22 '11 at 16:53
add comment

The direct translation of the latin Qui tacet consentit that has been thrown around here a few times is "He who is silent consents", but obviously that's not in common colloquial use -- nor, might I point out, is the latin phrase; not among your average English speaker.

In an informal setting, you're more likely to hear "he didn't say no" or "I never heard otherwise", which essentially carries the same meaning but without being a clearly-identifiable saying.

share|improve this answer
add comment

There was an author of military thrillers that used the term UNODIR for this situation.

It means UNless Otherwise DIRected. The usage was that the character would send a report up the chain of command and end it with "UNODIR I am going to do something crazy and kill the bad guys".

share|improve this answer
add comment

protected by RegDwigнt Dec 1 '12 at 22:31

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.