The word ‘YES’,  is sometimes known as ‘yeah’, ‘yep’, ‘yea’ or ‘aye’ and is probably the most common word used in the English language but do you know how to use ‘YES’ in different situations?  


Informal yeah, yep, ok, all right, yeah, aye. 

Formal agreed, absolutely, indeed, certainly


Informal no, nah, nup, nay, never, no-way

For beginner and intermediate learners, we cover how it’s used to agree and disagree, and how it can be used as a noun and in idiom forms. For more advanced learners we will show how its meaning can be changed or influenced through intonation.


Adverb Usage

‘YES’ is most commonly used as an adverb. 

As an adverb, ‘YES’ generally shows agreement, a willingness to do something requested or to be of the same opinion on a matter.


“Did you go to school today?” “Yes”


“Do you enjoy living in Hong Kong?“ “Yes, I love it”


“I love Chinese food” “Yes, me too”

But ‘YES’ doesn’t always show you though. When used in reply to a negative statement it actually shows disagreement. 


“I’m not very good at English” “Yes, you are – you communicate very well”


“He’s not very nice” “Yes, he is – he is always very kind to me”

We also use ‘YES’ and more informal or casually ‘yeah’ and ‘yep’ to show we are listening to someone, or that we are ready to listen to more information or instruction.


“Excuse me Sir.” “Yes, how may I assist you.”


“Hey there” “Yeah, whats up?”


“Step 1. Turn on the computer.” ”Yep.”

“Step 2. Enter your password.” “Yes”

“Step 3. Click on the icon.” “Yeah, O.K”

Noun Usage

As a noun ‘YES’ is countable and is often used in the context of counting votes, being given permission, or with invitations. 


“Did she win the vote” “Yes, she received 10 yeses and only 2 noes”


“Did we get approved” “Absolutely, they gave us a yes”


Common idioms using ‘YES’ include ‘oh yes’ and ‘yes and no’.

We say ‘oh yes’ when we suddenly remember or are reminded of something.


“Have you seen the new supermarket” “Oh yes – I have to drop by later today”


“What was I talking about again – Oh yes – I was talking about the show I watched on TV last night”

We say ‘yes and no’’ when we can’t decide on or can’t give a definitive answer to something. 


“Was the restaurant nice” “Yes and no, the food was great but the service was terrible”




A change in meaning or feeling a word is given can be greatly influenced by intonation. This applies to every word in English but it is particularly interesting to look at a high-frequency word like ‘YES’ because we hear it and use it so often. Consider the answer  ‘YES’ in the context of a prospective marriage proposal or even in the as an answer to have a first or second baby.

Will you marry me? Let’s have a baby?

English low fall tone The low fall.
This intonation is highly unlikely or for that matter desirable an answer to these questions of marriage and birth. This tone shows deliberate emotional detachment and is better suited to answering a question when only straight-forward facts are required, or more commonly after a fight or conflict where the answer would be short and sharp.

English Full Fall ToneThe full fall.
Full emotional involvement. The higher that the tone begins the more emotion and involvement you will display. Add an excited or surprised face and a little “breathiness” to your voice to show extra commitment to your answer. A possible reply.

English Mid Fall ToneThe mid fall.
Use this for routine and uncommitted comments only which are unexcited.  Not recommended.

English Low Rise ToneThe low rise.
Sympathetic and friendly when expressed with a happy facial expression but it also gives the feeling of “ok, but what’s the catch?”. Not recommended.

English Full Rise ToneThe full rise.
This shows “shock or disbelief”. Not recommend! Your beloved might be shocked if you say “yes” though and could use this tone to double check with you – as if to say “did you really say YES!”)

English High RiseThe high rise.
This shows you are confused or puzzled by the question and is similar to saying “do you know what you asking me?”. Not recommended.  

English Level ToneLevel
Bored, sarcastic and ironic. This tone says “if I must”, “I give up” or ”here we go again”. Don’t use this to answer our question unless you want to be killed!

English Fall Rise ToneThe fall rise.
A strongly emotional tone that with a positive facial expression shows encouragement and urgent need to start. Not the best – but a possible answer!

English Rise Fall ToneThe rise fall.
Strong emotional involvement, add a big smile and a positive facial expression and this tone can show delight. Add a little breathiness and it shows that you “can’t wait to start”. Highly recommended!!!