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Welcome to this week's FREE English lesson on the Web's best site for ESL students and teachers...

Topic: Short Answers

English answers, as well as most other languages, do not have to be full sentences.  It would not be natural for the answer to be identical to the question.  For example:

Bob:  Did you go to the store to buy milk?

Sally: Yes, I went to the store to buy milk?

This type of conversation rarely occurs between 2 native English speakers.  What would be natural is the following:

Bob:  Did you go to the store to buy milk?

Sally: Yes, I did.

This is called a “short answer.”  But there is a problem that many English students face.  What verb should you use in the short answer?  In the above conversation, the question uses the verb “go.”  But the verb in the short answer is “did.”  The difficulty is deciding which verb to use in the short answer.  Here are 2 more examples:

Jake; Did you have dinner yet?

Mary: Yes, I did.

Robert: Should I have purchased a better computer?

Phil: Yes, you should have.

Both of the above conversations contain the verb “have,” but only one uses it in the short answer.  Why?  It’s simple.  We have a great way to remember the rule. Take the quiz below and then look at the answers and complete explanation below.

1. Does Ann live here?

A. Yes, she lives.

B. Yes, she does.

C. Yes, she lives here.

D. No, she don’t live here.

2. Have you gone to Mexico?

A. Yes, I did.

B. Yes, I have.

C. Yes, I have gone.

D. Yes, I went.

3. Are you studying Korean now?

A. Yes, I am studying

B. No, I amn’t

C. Yes, I are.

D. Yes, I am.

4. Would you have gone with Tim if you had enough money?

A. Yes, I would have.

B. Yes, I would

C. Yes, I would have gone.

D. Yes, I have.

5. Did you graduate yet?

A. Yes, I did graduate.

B. Yes, I graduated.

C. Yes, I did.

D. No, I didn’t graduate.

6. Before you gave Greg the money, had you seen the car that you wanted to buy?

A. Yes, I did.

B. Yes, I had.

C. Yes. I had seen.

D. Yes, I saw.


1.) First, it is important to remember that these types of short answers are used ONLY with yes/no questions (i.e.; Are you tall?).  Therefore, you would almost never see a question word (i.e.; what, how, who) at the beginning of a yes/no question.

Second, we have a great way for you to remember which verb(s) to use in the short answer.  You may have already noticed the pattern.  The verb in the short answer is almost always the one used at the beginning of the question. 

Take a look at number 1 above. We see that the first word in the question is “does.”  That is the verb used in the short answer.  Therefore, B is the correct answer.

2. The first word in the question is “have.”  Therefore, B is our answer here.  Answers A and D are possible, but they are not correct because the question is in the present perfect, while answers A and D are simple present. C is incorrect because it is not as short as it can be.  It is not very natural either.  *Special Reminder: In English, the tense of the answer is usually the tense of the question.  Hence, if the question is simple past, then the answer will most likely be simple past.  For example:

George: What did you eat?  (simple past question)

Jill: I ate a hamburger and French fries.  (simple past answer) 
3. The first word in the question is “are” which is the verb “to be.”  Of course you cannot say: “Yes, I are.”  Instead, you must use the correct form of the verb “to be” which is “am.”  Therefore, our answer is D.
4. This is a tricky one.  We see that the first word is would.  Thus, you may have selected B.  If you chose B, you are unfortunately wrong.  Why?  This grammar tense basically has 2 helping verbs (would have) and then a main verb (gone).  You must use both the helping verbs in the short answer, but eliminate the main verb (gone).  As a result, our answer is A.  C seems a possibility also, but remember that we want a SHORT answer.  C would be more similar to a long answer.  In addition, C is not very natural in spoken English.

5.  C is the answer because of the reasons stated above.

6. There are a lot of verbs in this sentence so it seems confusing.  The question part of this sentence is right in the middle—“had you seen the car...”  The first word is “had.”  There is only 1 helping verb in this part (“had”) and the main verb (“seen”). Therefore, our answer is B.



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