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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?

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    Qui tacet consentit
    – Daniel
    Dec 21, 2011 at 20:38
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    No idioms that I can think of, but variations on silence is/implies consent/agreement/acquiescence abound.
    – Daniel
    Dec 21, 2011 at 20:46
  • Daniel, if you made an answer out of that, I would vote it up! Dec 21, 2011 at 20:58
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    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, 2011 at 21:15
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    @Danielδ - Nice link you provided - must bookmark it. Dec 23, 2011 at 0:42

10 Answers 10

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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.

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    Or "unless someone objects" ... ? Dec 22, 2011 at 12:19
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Speak now or forever hold your peace.

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    +1 This comes from wedding ceremonies, but is recognized and understood universally (in English). Dec 22, 2011 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. Dec 22, 2011 at 22:13
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    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 Dec 23, 2011 at 0:43
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    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, 2011 at 10:56
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    @rds: on the contrary, I think it is used often, though perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek, in oral communication. Dec 24, 2011 at 21:29
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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.

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    +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, 2011 at 1:30
  • see the NGram for that
    – sq33G
    Dec 22, 2011 at 7:55
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It's possible that the word you're looking for is tacit, which means to be understood or implied without being stated.

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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

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    In Sanskrit, which, like Latin, is a Indo-European language, it is "Maunam Sweekruti Lakshanan" which translates as "Silence is a sign of acceptance". Dec 22, 2011 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, 2011 at 7:57
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    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, 2011 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, 2011 at 10:51
  • Uhm, where'd you get to German here? "Zwijgen is instemmen" is not, if that was what you referred to Dec 22, 2011 at 12:31
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Sure. There is the phrase, "Silence is consent", sometimes given as "silence implies consent" or "silence is assent".

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  • More often, and of long standing, is "Silence lends assent". Dec 27, 2011 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, 2011 at 4:48
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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.

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    Taciturn consent? Surely you mean tacit consent? Dec 22, 2011 at 13:47
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"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.

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  • I think nem. con. is more common, but it means the same. Dec 22, 2011 at 12:49
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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".

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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.

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