The English word ‘yes’ is thought to come from the Old English word ‘gēse’, meaning ‘may it be so’, and can be traced back to earlier than the 12th century. In the centuries since, lots of alternatives to the word ‘yes’ have sprung up in the English language, and there are no many meanings for the word ‘yes’ too.
Today we’re going to look at some of the most common alternatives that you can use to express yourself more clearly, and liven up your English language conversations. From formal settings like the workplace, to laid back conversations with your friends, you’ll find that ‘yes’ is a very flexible word that fits into all manner of situations, and its alternatives do too.
Yes can be an answer in response to a question, such as “Have you seen where I put my briefcase?” or “Do you understand?”
The use of ‘yes’ here tends to be very straightforward, with little need for emotion, so some simple alternatives might be:
I do or I have
Or you could use the more informal:
Yep and yeah are very common alternatives to yes, but are only used informally, among people you know well, and they might be frowned upon in formal settings, such as the workplace when you’re speaking to your boss.
Yes can be an answer in response to a request, be it an informal one, such as “Could you pass the butter please?”
Sure I can!
Or a more formal one, such as “Please make sure the paperwork is finished for 5 o’clock.”
By all means
Yes can be an answer in response to an offer, such as “I’ve got spare tickets to the big game this weekend if you’d like one?” or “I could help you with your homework tonight if you like?”
I’d love that!
Fo sho! – a more informal youth slang meaning for sure, or certainly
Yes can be a word that you use to express your agreement with a positive statement, such as “That was a great evening” or “Wasn’t that a fantastic lunch?”
Yes, it was!
Wasn’t it just!
The above alternatives are all very positive. But here, different levels of enthusiasm can be expressed depending on the alternative ‘yes’ word that you use. Here are some to try depending on how much you agree or disagree with the statement in question:
Totally! – this is a laid back, colloquial alternative to ‘yes’ that originally comes from the teen surfer and skate culture in America. Its use has spread worldwide through movies and music, and is still widely used today, most commonly among younger native English speakers.
Yeah, right… – this one can be used sarcastically, with reference to the above examples, when you actually thought the evening was boring or the lunch was lousy.
Yes can also be asked at the end of a statement to indicate the expectation of agreement. For example: “You got the report handed in on time, yes?”
Right? – this is by far the most common alternative to yes that you’ll hear in this context, and you’ll often hear it tacked on to the end of sentences like this.
Yes can be used as a response to someone addressing you or trying to attract your attention. For example: “Oh, Ms. Smith.” “Yes?”
Try the informal:
Or the more formal:
Yes, what is it?
Yes, what can I do for you?
Yes can be used to encourage someone to continue speaking. For example in a conversation like this:
Mike: “When you bought those photographs…”
Mike: “Did you get them from the shop on the high street?”
Here, Dave is reassuring Mike that he has heard what he is saying, and is encouraging Mike to continue his question. You’ll often hear people saying yes in this context a lot while they are on the phone, or in any kind of conversation. In this context, some alternatives to yes might include:
I hear you – which is more formal, and tends to be used in the workplace as business jargon.
As well as the more informal:
If you hear someone repeating Uh-huh….uh-huh…. a lot while they’re listening to someone in a conversation this is a sign of a bored and half-hearted yes!
I see – this one would be used when someone is giving you some information rather than asking you a question. For example:
Mike: “There’s a problem with the report…”
Dave: “I see…”
Mike: “…it contains some errors in the last paragraph.”
Yes can also be an exclamation, expressing great pleasure or excitement. For example: “You got tickets for the gig? YES!”
In this case there are lots of alternatives you can use, as there are so many English exclamations to express pleasure. You could try:
What is your favourite way to say yes? Do you have any other alternatives our online readers might find useful for their language learning? Let us know in the comments below!