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Profile: Darkhand
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User Name: Darkhand
Forum Rank: Newbie
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Joined: Thursday, August 4, 2011
Last Visit: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 11:11:23 PM
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Topic: Are you not?
Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2011 12:51:02 AM
Hi all! Have a quick grammar question:

Answering the question "Are you not allowed to tell me?" with only a yes or no seems ambiguous to me, but I can't seem to explain the grammatical reason to my wife who is a native Japanese speaker.

To me as a native English speaker, answering with a yes would make me think the person is not allowed to tell me, as in: "Yes, you're correct, I am not allowed to tell you." She sees it as the opposite, with the 'not' reversing the question instead of the answer.

If I was asking the question and someone answered with only a yes or no, I would follow up with something like: "Yes you're allowed, or yes you're not allowed?". If answering, I would want to answer with more information, like "No, that's not it, I'm allowed to tell you".

Where I get tripped up in my explanation is here: Using "Aren't", still a negative, reverses the question, not the answer:

"Aren't you allowed to tell me?" Yes (I am allowed). Which is opposite from "Are you not", and that's where she's confused.


Can someone explain either why I'm wrong or the grammatical reasoning for this? She's looking for a hard rule that explains this mess. :) Thanks!