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Si, Señor! Posted by on Jan 3, 2017 in Grammar, Vocabulary

No, you’re not in the wrong place. This is indeed your favorite French blog. If you know any Spanish though, you’ll recognize this week’s title as Spanish for “Yes, Sir!“.* And while most people first learning French learn that the way to say ‘yes’, is ‘oui’, did you know that there are actually two ways to say yes in French?**

 

The differences between si and oui.

Generally the way you say ‘yes‘ in France (and other francophone countries) is to say ‘oui‘ . . . and as a rule, if you say ‘oui’ when you mean ‘yes’ you’ll do just fine. But the French also use ‘si’ for when responding to a negative question or statement. Compare these examples:

Monique est française, n’est-ce pas? (Monique is French, isn’t she?)
Oui, Monique est française. (Yes, Monique is French.)
Monique n’est pas française. (Monique is not French.)

Si. Elle est française. (Yes. She is French.)

Est-ce que tu viens à la fête ce soir ? (Are you coming to the party tonight ?)
Oui je viens à la fête ce soir. (Yes I’m coming to the party tonight.)
Tu ne viens pas ce soir ? (You’re not coming tonight.)
Si, je viens ce soir.
(Yes, I am coming tonight.)
Marc est gentil. (Mark is nice.)
Oui, il est très gentil. (Yes, he is very nice.)
Marc n’est pas très gentil. (Mark isn’t very nice.)
Si, il est très gentil. (Yes, he is very nice.)

Be careful though, because ‘si’ can also mean ‘if’. As in the common expression: ‘Avec des ‘si’ on referait le monde.’ (With “ifs” one could remake the world.) Often heard in response to someone complaining of a certain regret (‘Si seulement je n’avais pas . . . ‘ / ‘If only I hadn’t . . . ‘) or lack or resources or opportuity (‘Si seulement j’avais  . . . ‘‘If only I had . . . ‘).

* Or almost . . . “Sí” is the proper way to spell ‘yes’ in Spanish (with the accent).
** Ok, there are actually lots of ways to say yes in French. From the proper ‘oui’, ‘bien sur’, et ‘certainement’ (‘yes’, ‘of course’, and ‘certianly’) to ‘voui’ or ‘bah voui‘ or even ‘et bah voui’ (all emphatic ways of saying ‘yeah‘) and ‘ouais’ (which is the cool, ‘décontracté’ (‘relaxed’) way of saying yes, but can also be an interjection akin to ‘wow‘ or ‘whoa’) to ‘mouais’ (which is a more dubious or even doubtful version of ‘oui’) . . . just to cite a few!

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


Comments:

  1. Svaneska:

    ¡Hola! Bonne année.
    FYI: in Spanish, Señor is written with the tilde ~ … also sí with an accented í is Spanish for yes, and si (no accent) is the Spanish word for if.
    I notice you say sí is with an accent in French, so does French have the same non-accented for if?
    Thank you for your interesting posts to help with my French learning.

    • Tim Hildreth:

      @Svaneska Thanks for catching my missing tilde! I’ve added it. And the “Sí” I was refering to in my notes is the Spanish. There is no accent on ‘si’ (either to mean ‘yes’ or ‘if’) in French. I’ve updated my notes to (hopefully) make it clearer! Et Bonne Année à vous aussi!