否定疑問文はやめてよう。Don't aske me negative questions.

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Jul 17, 2011 02:40 Japanese
One of the trickiest confusion between Japanese and English languages is about the use of YES/NO and はい/いいえ. As long as you're using positive sentences, there isn't much problem; YES is はい, whereas NO is いいえ. That's simple.

However, when it comes to negative sentences, YES becomes いいえ, and NO is now はい.

Let's see an example.

A: Oh, this is not great!
B: No, not at all.

A: うわあ、これはよくないね!
B: はい、本当に。

I often tend to say "YES" and off course it causes a kind of awkward air, because they expect to hear my agreement but it is betrayed.


When it comes to negative questions, it may be even more confusing. Something like the example below happened to me once before.

A: Would like another pint of beer?
ODON: No, thanks. I'm OK.

After asking the same questions to others, he wanted to reconfirm my will and asked me again with a negative sentence.

A: So, you don't want one, right?

Then, because I was supposed to say はい in Japanese in this context, I answered him,

ODON: Yes!

Puzzled, he asked me again,

A: What? Do you want a beer?
ODON: No.
A: OK, you DON'T want a beer.
ODON: Yes.


This could go forever. LOL



Below is a recent video about an interview with Lady Gaga in a TV show in Japan. Around 1:19, they are talking about her horn-like hat. The interviewer asked her in Japanese, like "I guess, off course you couldn't get on a car with those horns?" Apparently, the translator gave the negative question to her. Then Gaga said after a short pause, "YES. It was a very tall car."

However, the subtitles on the screen read 「ええ。」when she said "Yes" around 2:05. If she say 「ええ。」, which is equal to はい and means 'NO', the whole conversation doesn't make any sense.


男:これ当然車には乗れませんよね。(actual words)
Man: I guess, off course you couldn't get on a car with those horns?(English translation)

ガガ:ええ。凄く天井の高い車だったの(the subtitles on the screen)
Gaga: NO. It was a very tall car. (English back translation from the subtitles)


Well, she had a very tall car but she couldn't get on the car with those horns? What a rubbish. I was surprised that those subtitles supposedly made by a professional translator and broadcasted all over Japan still had such a mistake.


Gaga: YES. It was a very tall car. (actual words)
ガガ:乗れるわよ。凄く天井の高い車だったの (Japanese translation)




In my opinion, Japanese はい is equivalent to "I agree with you" in English. And いいえ means "I don't agree with you."