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I have realised that (at least in the UK) when I ask "How are you?" many people usually answer things like "Yes, I'm great, thank you.". Given that it is not a yes/no question, what is the function of that "Yes" at the beginning of the answer?

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    Have you tried looking up "yes" in a good dictionary?
    – Stuart F
    Sep 27, 2021 at 22:04
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    Maybe it's a UK thing, because I don't think I've heard it much in the US.
    – Barmar
    Sep 28, 2021 at 2:02
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    Yes @StuartF, I looked it up in several dictionaries (Collins, Oxford, Cambridge and Longman) and I couldn't find a satifactory answer.
    – santvi
    Sep 28, 2021 at 10:31
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    @StuartF Do you think you could make an answer out of that? It's not obvious and could make a really good summary of this unexpected phenomenon.
    – Mitch
    Sep 28, 2021 at 15:30
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    I haven't found backing for this, but I'd see the added 'yes' as a pragmatic marker, addressee- (askee-)directed, conveying approval / appreciation of the question, in no way part of the information actually addressing the query. 'Thanks for asking: '. But it could be an acknowledgement that the answerer recognises that the enquirer is likely to have known they have been ill (Well may you ask!') ... or even merely not querier-orientated, but a structuring device (speech- and/or self-directed) as one formulates a well-structured relevant answer (Er ... yes, that's it: ...').. Oct 9, 2023 at 14:30

2 Answers 2

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In a comment, Mr. Ashworth posted the following illuminating answer:

I haven't found backing for this, but I'd see the added 'yes' as a pragmatic marker, addressee- (askee-)directed, conveying approval / appreciation of the question, in no way part of the information actually addressing the query. 'Thanks for asking: '. But it could be an acknowledgement that the answerer recognises that the enquirer is likely to have known they have been ill (Well may you ask!') ... or even merely not querier-orientated, but a structuring device (speech- and/or self-directed) as one formulates a well-structured relevant answer (Er ... yes, that's it: ...').

(Mr. Ashworth was probably reluctant to post it as an answer because he hasn't 'found backing' for it, but it still needs to be so posted in order that the future visitors to the page can consider it on a par with the other posted answer, and express their agreement/disagreement with it by voting.)

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I think it's because people don't really pay attention so they try to cover their bases by saying yes and explaining.

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