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When “no” means yes Posted by on Jul 6, 2012 in Countries, Culture, Grammar, Languages, Phrases

One challenge in learning a language comes up when a word in one language is also a word in another, but with a completely different meaning. The word “no” is a good example of that. In English, of course, it is a negative response. And it is such a basic word, and so frequently used that it is hard for a lot of people to not associate this word with negation.

You see in Polish, there is also a word that is spelled and pronounced exactly like the English no. Its meaning, however, is closer to yeah. That’s right, no means yeah. More or less. If someone asks you a question, in Polish, you aren’t likely to reply with no… you might say tak (yes), or nie (no), but not no. Instead, you will say no when you are agreeing with what someone just said — sort of like saying yeah, or uh-huh, or just nodding to indicate that you’re still paying attention.

Here are some examples:

Jesteś zainteresowany? (Are you interested?)

No, jestem (Yeah, I’m)

Naprawdę? (Really?)

No! (Yeah)

Masz ochotę na lody? (Do you feel like ice cream?)

No, dużą ochotę! (Yes, I really do!)

No to dobra (yes it’s good – usually t the end of conversation)

No oczywiście! (of course!)

Are you confused yet?

You will probably hear “no” a lot of times during the conversation…sometimes people just say it to let you know that they are listening to you!

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.