I recently moved to the West Coast for a new job. I periodically ask if someone is going to take choice A or choice B. Commonly they answer "yes" or "no." I always asked them to re-state by writing "choice " or "choice ". A few said I knew exactly what they meant, I just like to be difficult. I tried to sincerely ask a few coworkers what "yes" and "no" meant in this context and they just frowned and sighed. Where I'm from no one answers "yes". Is this grammatically correct and if so what does it mean?

Bob: Jim, are you taking next week off or the following week?

Jim: Yes

Which week is Jim taking off?

I know this.

Bob: Jim are you taking either next week or the following week off?

Jim: Yes

Means Jim is may be taking next week off or he may be taking the following week off. He's not indicating which week, he's just indicating that it will be one of those 2 weeks, not neither of those 2 weeks.


3 Answers 3


Unless it's idiomatic in that region (and I suspect it's not), they are being smart asses: people who, by means of purpsose or not, use sarcasm to have a laugh.

A person who, on a regular bases, annoys the hell out of people with their sarcastic-attitude.


In your defined example, they're likely joking. When I started at my current company their form of hazing was to add, "since the accident," to the end of each sentence. "Hey, is there a coffee machine on the second floor?" "No, not since the accident." The whole week I was wondering what had happened. Maybe they're messing with you similarly? Or perhaps they're simply idiots.

I did want to chime in and say that though not appropriate in this scenario, you can answer "or" questions in the affirmative or negative. Consider the following, with a slight change:

Bob: Jim, are you taking next week or the following week off?

Jim: Yes.

Jim is taking one of those weeks off, though which remains unknown.

Or the following:

Jenny: Would you like cake, or would you like ice cream?

Justin: No.

In English, it is assumed by many (especially in verbal conversation) that "or" is an exclusive or, meaning that one to the exclusion of the other. If ambiguity is sufficiently reduced, to the effect that they are mutually exclusive, one should choose. If you knew he was taking one of those weeks off but were unsure of which one he had scheduled, or if Justin had to choose between cake or ice cream, they they should be clear and choose one when answering.

In short, Jim should be more clear.

  • Your example is a replica of my last example.
    – Joe C
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 4:25
  • @JoeC that was my point.
    – emsoff
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 4:37

Bob: Jim, are you taking next week off or the following week?

Jim: Yes

regarding to the conversation, personally, I guess Jim was in a hurry, he responded right after he heard the first half of the question(i.e the part before "or").

so to make the question clear, you should use which.

Jim, which week are you going to be off? next or the week following?

  • Not just verbal. I always get just Yes in chat also. How to make the person understand that he/she has to pick an option?
    – paul
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 13:11

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