Answering ‘Yes’

The Romans did not possess a word of affirmation—a ‘yes’ that stands alone. Instead, they used one of two ways to express a positive answer to a question.

1. The first is to repetition the verb of the question, which implies affirmation.

  • Do you sing?—I sing: canisne?—canō.
  • Does your father jog?—Indeed, he does: currit parēns?—currit.

This repetition is particular useful with double questions, where it allows the respondent to clearly choose one of the two (or few) options.

  • Did you see it, or are you repeating something you have heard?—I saw it myself: vīdistī an dē audītō nūntiās?—egomet vīdī.

2. There are a number of places where this would get awkward, so the Romans have a variety of affirmative adverbs to replace the repeated verb.

  • Is her name Julia?—Yes it is: Iūlia eī nomen est?—nomen est. (awkward)
  • Is her name Julia?—Yes it is: Iūlia eī nomen est?—ita vērō.

There a set number of these adverbs, and they sometimes couple to form more emphatic responses.

  • vērō, in truth, true, no doubt
  • etiam, even so, yes
  • ita, thusly, yes
  • sānē, surely, no doubt
  • certē, certainly, unquestionably
  • factum, true, so it is

Each of these has a its own flavor. ‘Factum‘ would be appropriate for past completed actions (think faciō), ‘certē‘ works both to affirm and to dispel the double of the questioner, whereas ‘vērō‘ is more of a calm rejoinder. Some combinations:

  • ita vērō, certainly
  • ita est, it is so
  • sānē quidem, absolutely

Some examples:

  • Is she as gorgeous as they say?—oh yes. estne ut fertur in formā?—sānē.
  • Did you already take out the trash?—I did. stramenta exduxistī?—factum.
  • Is he really so selfish?—He sure is. estne vērō tantum egoisticus?—ita vērō.

The Essential AG: 336a, 337

If you readers out there know of any other standard Latin ‘yes’s feel free to add them below.

2 comments on “Answering ‘Yes’

  1. seneca the elder says:

    Why do you use the subjunctive of cano-ere in your first question as opposed to the simple indicative? Seems like the use of the subjunctive would be a deliberative subjunctive and, therefore, ask something a little different than your translation…

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