There are lots of answers here on how to answer to negative questions like "Don't you ...?", e.g. How to answer a negative question without ambiguity?. But I am not sure about answers to a question like this:

Q: You haven't started the tests yet, right?

This was the (non-native speaker's) answer:

A: Yes I haven't started yet.

I wondered if it should not be "No, I haven't started yet" instead. On the other hand, perhaps one could answer "yes" to the "right?" part...

  • It looks like a Statement with a Question at the end. Hence you answer that Question. You might additionally or alternatively want to remove ambiguity by giving Details. What I am implying : "Yes , I have not started" + "No , I have started" + "I have not started" + "I have started" will work !
    – Prem
    Dec 9, 2022 at 9:14
  • There's a famous song that contains the memorable 'Yes! We have no Bananas' (see Lyrics.com), but this was written to highlight the unusual 'yes' + {negative} twinning. And 'Yes;/,/. I haven't started yet' might be more logical than the song's usage, but it still sounds off. I'd go with 'No; I/we haven't' (assuming the question was unmarked for disapproval). Dec 9, 2022 at 16:19
  • Go right ahead and say either "yes" or "no", whichever feels better to you. If they confused you with their question, you're under no obligation to unconfuse them with your answer. Dec 10, 2022 at 17:44
  • @JohnLawler So you are saying it is confusing to append a ", right?" after a negative statement? Dec 12, 2022 at 1:42
  • @EvgeniyBerezovsky It confused you, didn't it? Dec 12, 2022 at 2:22

1 Answer 1


Because the question is asked in the negative, an answer that just contained "yes" or "no" would generally be considered ambiguous.

So to be clear, we always include the statement of whether or not we started in the response. When doing this, it's acceptable to start with either "yes" or "no". So both

Yes, I haven't started.


No, I haven't started.

would be OK.

I believe the latter would be the more common way to answer, though. In our minds, we invert the question to "Have you started the tests?" and that makes the second response more natural.

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