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At the cafe..

  • I : Coffee please.
  • Staff : No milk?

In that case, how should I answer if I don't want milk?

  1. No.
  2. Yes.
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    Your alternatives are a false dichotomy. The answer is "You are correct."
    – Greybeard
    Mar 30, 2021 at 15:42
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    There are far more answers than the ones you are proposing. Mar 30, 2021 at 18:39

2 Answers 2

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This question is a good example of the confusion that can occur when a question is asked - unhelpfully, imho - in the negative. To dispel that confusion, a third option is needed in the list of possible answers, namely “correct”.

For example: A: “I don’t think we can get there in time for dinner”. B: “Yes”. Does B mean “yes, I agree” or “yes we can, if we hurry”? “Correct” here would prevent any misunderstanding.

By the way, in German the word “doch” exists precisely to prevent such misunderstandings. In this example, if B replied with “Doch”, s/he would mean “On the contrary, I disagree and think that we CAN get there in time for dinner”.

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  • I like the use of "doch" but I wonder what a German would say if they agreed with the statement. Are they back to "Ja" which is still ambiguous.
    – BoldBen
    Mar 31, 2021 at 1:52
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"No milk?" is a bit unusual of a way to query whether you want milk or not unless there is some existing context i.e. you have asked for no milk previously and they are confirming, in which case you could reply, "Yes, no milk.".

Without context it can go either way depending on their intent so I think the best way to answer is:

  1. State "No milk.", which aims to reduce ambiguity in your response.
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  • I'm really grateful :):)
    – HowToGloss
    Mar 30, 2021 at 5:14
  • though I suspect that the responses "No milk." and "No, milk." may have opposite meanings
    – Henry
    Mar 30, 2021 at 10:21

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