For questions like
- Can/could you tell me a joke?
- Can/could you tell me where the coffee place is?
- Can/could you name an actor who lives in Canada?
and so on...

Should this be answered with "yes" or "no"? Or with an actual answer (like how one would for questions starting with "Will/would")?

  • Here's some non-linguistic advice: if your significant other asks Can you tell me a joke? and you reply Yes or No, expect pain soon, possibly physical, certainly mental. No-one likes a smart-arse. Give an actual answer. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 7:28
  • 1
    These constructions are usually just polite commands; they do not require a literal answer, but permit one. Sure...a man walks into a bar or No, sorry, I'm not from around here or Yeah, easy! Yul Brynner! are all natural, but simply Knock, knock or At the end of the block, on this side of the street or Alanis Morissette...she acts, right? are all natural, too. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 8:15
  • Answering with just a 'Yes' will annoy the person asking. (It amounts to 'Yes, I can/could, but I'm not going to'). They are looking for you to give the answer too (or jut the answer), or for you to say that you cannot.
    – Smock
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


"Yes" or "no" is OK. "Sure", "absolutely" etc. sound cooler. Sometimes you can skip "yes" or "no" and tell a joke/where the coffee place is/an actor's name straightforward if you think it's not brusque. Trim your sails.

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