Japanese/Lessons/Introduction/Ogenki desu ka/Yes and no


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Saying yes:

  • はい hai: yes (polite)
  • ええ ee: yes (polite, colloquial)
  • うん un: yeah (not polite, colloquial)
  • そう sou: yes, like that

Saying no / rejecting:

  • いいえ iie: no (polite)
  • いや iya: no (less polite)
  • ううん uun: oh, no (less polite, colloquial)

Remember: いえ ie means house and should not be used as a shorthand of no.

  • (ちが)います chigaimasu: That's wrong. (polite)
  • (ちが)chigau: That's wrong. (not polite)
  • ()かりません wakarimasen: I don't know. (polite)
  • ()からない wakaranai: I don't know. (not polite)
  • ()かんない wakannai: I don't know. (not polite, colloquial)


  • どうでしょうか dou deshou ka: Hmm...I wonder. (polite)
  • どうですかね dou desu ka ne: Hmm...I wonder. (polite, colloquial)
  • どうだろうか dou darou ka: Hmm...I wonder. (not polite)
  • どうかな dou ka na: Hmm...I wonder. (not polite, colloquial)
  • どうかしら dou kashira: Hmm...I wonder. (not polite, colloquial, feminine)

Usage Notes:

  1. The basic words for "yes" and "no" are はい hai and いいえ iie. However, as you see above, there are many variants, as well as other common responses to yes/no questions.
  2. Comparing はい hai, ええ ee, and うん un
    • はい hai is a polite way of saying "yes" and can be used in almost any situation.
    • ええ ee is a more colloquial but still polite way of saying "yes" and also carries a somewhat feminine connotation.
    • うん un is a colloquial way of saying "yes" and is closer to the English word "yeah".
  3. Comparing いいえ iie, いえ ie, いや iya, and ううん uun
    • いいえ iie is a polite way of saying "no" and can be used whenever a clear-cut "no" is needed.
    • いえ ie means house or household and is not to be confused with a shortened version of the above.
    • いや iya is a less polite synonym and also caries a masculine connotation.
    • ううん uun is colloquial and connotes a bit of surprise. It could be translated as "oh, no" or "certainly not".
Different ways of saying yes and no.
Polite Colloquial but polite Colloquial
Yes はい ええ (feminine) うん
No いいえ いや いや (bit surprised)



As a statement, そう sou can be used by itself as an interjection or as a na-adjective followed by です desu or だ da. As a question, そう sou can be used by itself with a rising tone, or followed by か ka or ですか desu ka. It means "that is right," or "that is so," and is used as an affirmative answer to a question.

  1. Interjection examples
    • 学生(がくせい)ですか。 Gakusei desu ka?
    • そうです。 Sou desu.
    • Translation
    • Are you a student?
    • Yes, I am.
    • アメリカ(じん)? Amerika-jin?
    • そうよ。 Sou yo.
    • Translation
    • Are you American?
    • Yes, I am.
    • 看護士(かんごし)です。 Kangoshi desu.
    • そうですか。 Sou desu ka?
    • Translation
    • I'm a nurse.
    • Are you really?
    • 簡単(かんたん)宿題(しゅくだい)だ。 Kantan na shukudai da.
    • そう? Sou?
    • Translation
    • This is simple homework.
    • Is it?
  2. Na-adjective examples
    • 弁護士(べんごし)さんですか。Bengoshi-san desu ka?
    • そうです。Sou desu.





In Japanese, はい hai is similar to the English word "yes", while いいえ iie is similar to "no". The use of the Japanese terms, however, does not correspond exactly to that of the English words. More precisely, はい hai in Japanese means, "I agree with you", or, "It is correct." Thus, English speakers may struggle with the proper Japanese answer to negative questions (e.g. Don't you ...? or ..., don't you?). Specifically, はい hai answers a negative question in the sense that corresponds to the English "No." Likewise, いいえ iie answers a negative question in the sense that corresponds to the English "Yes."


"Yes and Hai" by Keiichiro