Category Archives: Problems

No is an answer not a question.

Asking a question in Spanish can often involve making a statement and then add the word No with a rising intonation

Estudio mucho, ¿no?  I study a lot, no?  (meaning don’t I).  

Many of my students have been taught English by Spanish natives and have transfered this ‘tag’ from Spanish to English, without anyone really noticing.    Much of the time it doesn’t cause communication problems, it is frequently obvious that the speaker is seeking agreement or confirmation.  ‘We can meet in Bar Glacia, no?’ or ‘The answer is D, no?‘ .  But when something is being discussed that has multiple possible answers then the situation can become more frustrating.

You are driving with a Spanish companion, you ask for directions:

You: Which way do you think I should  go?

Sp: Right, no?

You: OK, left then.

Sp No.  Right, no? …….

If the no tag is used frequently it may also have a subliminal effect on the English native, who instinctively doesn’t use the No word if he or she can help it.  The Spaniard comes across as negative – they are always saying no.

In isolation this usage is a bit annoying and may cause a smidge of confusion, but when it is coupled with the can’t that sounds like can the Spanish speaker is in danger of coming across as dishonest and negative – not a useful persona to project in a business meeting/teleconference.

The first steps to curing this problem is awareness and the first thing to do to make students aware is write:

No is an answer not a question on the whiteboard.

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