Which of these two expressions is correct?

1) Of course not, I am here.

2) Of course not, I am not here.

For example:

Yes, he is a boy

The word "yes" emphatically introduces a positive statement. It could not be followed by a negative statement as "yes, he is not a boy." Likewise, "no, he is not a boy." The word "no" has to be followed by a negative statement.

Can I treat "of course" and "of course not" like "yes" and "no"?

  • 3
    Maybe you could give some background on what situation you’re talking about. I’m having trouble thinking of a case in which one would say, “I am not here.” I guess it could be if she was pointing to a location on a map, in which case either form could work (although the double negative certainly makes the second one sound awkward). Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 0:30
  • I am not here is a fabricated example, but grammatically correct. My own guess is "of course" is equivalent to "yes" and "of course not" to "no". If my guess is right, then it should be,of course I am here; of course not, I am not here.
    – Choy
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 1:34
  • 1
    If "I am not here" is generating confusion, perhaps it would be worthwhile to alter your example expressions. I'm not sure myself what some other possibilities might be. Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 2:46
  • 3
    "Yes" can be followed by a negative statement. "No" can be followed by a positive statement. You're conflating grammar with meaning in context. "Is your baby a girl?" > "No, he is a boy." That being said, "of course" and "of course not" can generally be treated as "yes" and "no," respectively.
    – njboot
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 5:41
  • 3
    You are wrong, though, Choy. Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 8:22

3 Answers 3


I (largely) agree with njboot and Matt Эллен – positive and negative utterances can be intermixed, fairly freely.  (I used the word “utterances” because “clauses” is too restrictive – “Yes”, “No”, and “Of course” are not clauses.)  I would say that the short answer is: when you’re answering a question, you answer the question.  And then, if you want, you provide amplifying/clarifying information.  Here are some examples that I consider valid:

  • Are you in Hungary?
    Yes, I’m in Hungary.

  • Are you in Hungary?
    No, I’m not in Hungary.

  • Are you in Hungary?
    No, I’m in Austria.                                          ← (negative followed by positive)

  • Are you in Hungary?
    Yes, I left Austria two days ago.

  • Are you in Hungary?
    Yes, I’m in not Austria any more.                ← (positive followed by negative)

  • Are you hungry?
    Yes, I haven’t eaten in two days.                  ← (positive followed by negative)

I guess, in any of the above, “Yes” could be replaced by “Of course” and “No” could be replaced by “Of course not” (but I still believe that double negatives like “Of course not, I’m not.” sound wrong to my ear).  Whether such a substitution would make sense would depend on the context (i.e., what the other person might reasonably expect).  For example, if I were in a place that I was scheduled to be in on that day, I might say, “Of course”; if I were delayed or detoured, I definitely would not.  “Of course” and “Of course not” may be equivalent to “Yes” and “No” when they are followed by a comma (or possibly a semicolon), but watch out for cases like

  • Are you at the South Pole?
    • No, I’m not at the South Pole.
    • Of course I’m not at the South Pole.
      (This means, “Of course not, I’m not at the South Pole.”, but I don’t believe anybody would ever say that.)
    • No I’m not at the South Pole.                ← (this is wrong; it needs the comma after “No”)
  • Let me be clear by the following examples: yes, I am Mr. Y ; no, I am not Mr.Y. Nobody could challenge the correctness of these two sentences grammatically. However, if I say : no, I am Mr. Y, then you would not know what I am denying and you only know what I am affirming; further questions would be required because I may be denying Mr. X, or Mr.Z, or Mr.A, or anything. It is due to this suppression of answer that yes, positive and no, negative. Again, what I am not sure is whether of course and of course not could be substituted for yes and no.
    – Choy
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 1:20
  • Well, since you seem to be thoroughly confused (or else I am), let me put it to you this way: Nobody would ever begin a conversation with “Yes, …”, “No, …”, “Of course, …” or “Of course not, …”. Those would be used only in response to a yes/no question. If you’re asking the grammatical correctness of these forms at the beginning of a conversation, you’re barking up the wrong tree; like “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”, they are grammatically correct, but semantically nonsensical. Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 20:06
  • The mystery of language could not be significantly explained by Noam Chomsky, but could be credibly, to a certain extent, reflected on the reports by the US astronomer in the late 60's and the Chinese astronomer in the early 2000 when they were on their lunar trips, answering same questions with two entirely different languages. I do not intend to elaborate.
    – Choy
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 7:15

I would say that each of them has its own place, because I consider the part after "Of course not" as the reason as why we answered "no" that is implied by the "Of course no".

Those two expressions are, of course, grammatically correct, so perhaps you're asking which one is sensical. My answer is that both of them can be made sensical, depending on the question.

To make the expressions sensical, one just need to find out a question for each expression which, when answered by "No", will have "I am here" or "I am not here" as the explanation.

For the first:

John and Mary in a room with a bed and a computer table. John is sitting in front of the computer table, not seeing Mary lying on the bed

John: (shouting, thinking Mary is outside) Mary, are you near the mailbox now?

Mary: (to John's surprise) Of course not, I am here.

Scott's example is a good one for the second:

John and Mary having online conversation with John apparently controlling Mary's computer remotely through screen sharing software

Mary: Can you see the penguins from your place?

John: Of course not, (pointing to the north pole on the map with his cursor) I am not here.

  • 1
    Of course, even if he were at the North Pole, John would not be able to see penguins. Of course he wouldn’t! :) (Then again, he probably wouldn’t be able to at the South Pole, either.) Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 17:21

You can follow "Yes" by a negative statement. Consider a court case:

Prosecutor: "So, Mr. Jones, you were not at the bar the night of December 23rd, correct?"

Mr. Jones: "Yes, I was not at the bar that night."

You can do the same thing with "of course" and "of course not".

"Of course I wasn't drunk, you turd-eater!" said Henrietta.

So as there are no rules requiring "Yes/No" to be followed by solely positive/negative statements, there are no rules requiring "Of course/Of course" not to be followed solely by positive/negative statements, respectively.

  • It is a fallacy of appeal to authority. The date December 23rd is damningly wrong. There are two ways of writing a date: December 23, or 23rd December. December 23rd is both grammatically and logically wrong. No discussion on other points are warranted.
    – Choy
    Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 0:59
  • @Choy: English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Of course you’re free to use this site (note the use of a leading “of course” without a following comma), but you might be better served by English Language Learners, as you don’t seem to fit into EL&U’s target audience. Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 20:30
  • 1
    @Choy: In particular, “December 23rd” is perfectly correct. There are many acceptable ways of writing the date 12/23 (two days before Christmas), including “December 23”, “23 December”, and “the 23rd of December”. While “23rd December” might not quite be “damningly wrong” – most English speakers would understand it, and it might be common in certain contexts (maybe legal documents) – very few English speakers would use it, in my experience. Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 20:31
  • Grammar is logic applied to speech; we condemn the sins, but not the sinners. 10 players, a cardinal number; the 10th player, an ordinal number; the player 10, a nominal player; and no others are logically established. We say August the second (8/2), but we write August two (8/2). Our speech is wrong, our writing right.
    – Choy
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 7:47

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