I have found a lot of information about asking questions but very little about answering them.

I want to create a rule to help learners answer affirmative/negative questions in Chinese. Presently I ask them to identify the following in a sentence: copulas, modals, main verbs or solitary adjectives and then use them in one or two-word answers. My question is how would you answer the following questions in the simplest way:

  1. 李先生在吗?
  2. 他是你的朋友吗?
  3. 李先生很累吗?
  4. 你要这张卡片吗?
  5. 李先生有朋友吗?
  • Most frequently and informally I would use 嗯 to 4th tone to make 'yes' answers, 嗯 to the reverse 2nd tone (243) to make 'no' answers and 嗯 to 1st tone to give an uncertain answer. Apr 11, 2014 at 6:25
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a suggestion, so it should be moved to Chinese Language Meta
    – xqMogvKW
    Apr 11, 2014 at 7:09
  • 1
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is an open question about teaching Chinese.
    – NS.X.
    Apr 11, 2014 at 7:29

3 Answers 3


First answer is yes, and next answer is no:

  1. 李先生在吗? 在/不在
  2. 他是你的朋友吗? 是/不是
  3. 李先生很累吗? 累(This is shortest, but in real life people wouldn't answer like that)/不累(This is native.)
  4. 你要这张卡片吗? 要/不要
  5. 李先生有朋友吗? 有/没有

And using the 嗯 to make no answer is not the right way, people don't speak like that.

  • @user3306356 I don't have the privilege to comment you answer, so I'll write it down here. Use 嗯 to make the 'yes' answer is fine, and to make the other 2 answers is controversial. Use 2nd tone to hint a doubt, that would probably acceptable. But I don't see anyone using 嗯 to negate in real life.
    – Rui
    Apr 17, 2014 at 20:22

Don't know how much I can discover...and I'm not writing that strict rules.

  • One can combine Ma with a negative sentence, and its answer is always reverse to the western logic.




  • Thus there are direct answers as simplified compound answers based on main verb.

是的/对/对的-不是/不对、 是的-(还)没有 、 有的-没有。

  • Note that 你吃了吗? is not really a question asking if you have had meal, but somehow a kind of invitation. The right way to answer is



if you have had your meal and don't want to be invited.

Any other answer leads to the consequence of being invited.


Answering everything with:

is perfectly acceptable and can avoid having to have any sort of conversation!

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