English, like most other languages, is full of slang, expressions, and informal vocabulary. Perhaps the most common situation in which we see such words or phrases used is in expressing an affirmative or negative response. An affirmative or negative response is just a grammatically technical way to describe a yes or no answer. Just to review, we use yes to affirm a previous idea or express a positive reaction. This would be an affirmative case. We use no to negate a previous idea or express a negative reaction. This would be a negative case.
Let’s start with some yes situations: touching on context, meaning, and tone. There are a lot of words in English that are basically variations of the word yes itself. For example, you might hear “yeah”, “yep”, “yup”, “yah” or “yas”. Really anything that sounds a lot like yes, said in a positive manner is likely just a different way of saying yes in English. Some other common phrases that are simple are “for sure”, “sounds good”, or “sounds like a plan”. These are self-explanatory in that you are expressing positive approval. Now we’ll look at some of the more unusual examples.
Phrases which mean "Yes"
All of the following words or phrases can be used to say yes: “you got it”, “bet”, “you know it”, “good deal”, and “without a doubt”. “You got it” and “you know it” are basically affirming that the other person has the correct idea. The above phrases are more casual phrases used to imply something like -- “yes, you have gotten it correct” or “yes, you know it to be true”. “Bet” is a shorter version of the command “you bet”. Bet means to wager or gamble, so basically what you’re saying is because this is true or I can confirm this idea (with a yes) then you could bet on it and win money. In “good deal”, deal refers to the proposal – let’s say “should we get dinner this evening?” – so saying that it is a good deal expresses a positive reaction. Finally, “without a doubt” means that there is no possibility that the contrary might be true. These are some of the most common yes phrases that you likely will not find in your textbook.
Phrases which mean "No"
Now we can move on to no situations looking at context, meaning, and tone. Once again, many of the words are just variations of the original word no itself. For example, take the following list: “nah”, “nope”, or “nay”. Much like yes phrases, any short word that starts with n and is said in a negative tone is likely a synonym for no. Some other common phrases include: “no can do”, “that will not work”, “not a chance”, or “no way”. All these in one way or another refer to the proposal or idea and indicate a negative response.
Here are a few more words or phrases used to say no: “doubtful”, “no shot”, “dog won’t hunt”, or “when pigs fly”. Doubtful means full of doubt (so unlikely to be true or a good idea) and no shot means there is not a chance that the given question is true or that the proposed option is a good idea. “Dog won’t hunt” is a lot like the previously mentioned “no can do”, in this case we are saying that something is simply not possible. “When pigs fly” implies that the answer will be yes when pigs fly which is impossible, so thus the answer will never be yes. The phrases discussed here are fairly common but likely have not yet found their way into many English learning textbooks.
While we are touching on ways to affirm or negate in conversation it’s a good idea to touch on ways to express uncertainty as well. The most common word for this in English is “maybe” which is derived from “it may be so”. Like yes and no there exists a near infinity of ways to express the uncertainty that comes with a maybe. Beginning once again with the more commonly used expressions we have: “perhaps”, “possibly”, “not sure”, or “there is a chance that”. Each of these examples expresses some level of uncertainty about the situation. Some more informal options include: “who knows”, “no clue”, “idk (I don’t know)”, “God knows”, or “it’s whatever”. Here the first three once again express uncertainty based on a lack of knowledge by the parties involved. The final expression “it’s whatever” applies more to issues of preference. For example -- “should we go to the movies tonight?” answered by “it’s whatever” means that you do not care all that much whether or not you attend the movies.
Just as much as the words themselves, tone can be a key indicator of meaning. Usually the way a person speaks well clue you in as to whether or not their response is positive or negative. These are just some of the many ways to say maybe, yes, and no in English. It is important to understand and learn to use phrases like the ones covered here that you probably will not learn from a textbook. Best of luck!