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Conversational Language (#8), by Dennis Oliver

 

Conversational Language (#8):
Informal Variations on "No"

 

Written language and conversational language are often
quite different. In fact, what's normal, common, and
acceptable in spoken language is often considered to be
unacceptable in written language. This is one of several
Hints on some of the differences.

 

Informal Variations on "No"

 

In conversational American English, several variations on
"No" are often heard:

Hm-umm.

It's difficult to show the pronunciation of this variation
on "No" by using normal writing. It's made with the
mouth closed. The vowel is nasal (made through the nose).
There's a glottal stop (a kind of "catch" in the throat)
between the two parts.

Huh-uh.

It's also difficult to show this pronunciation by using
normal writing. It's made with the mouth slightly open,
and the vowels are also nasal. As with Hm-umm,
there's a glottal stop between the two parts.

Uh-uh.

This variation is sometimes written "Unh-uh" to show
that the first vowel is nasal. Like Hm-umm and Huh-uh,
it has a glottal stop between the two parts.

Nope.

This variation on "No" is similar to Yep (a variation on
"Yes"). It has the same sound as "hope."

Nah.

This is a very casual equivalent for "No." It's usually
pronounced "naeh" with a vowel that sounds the same as
the vowel in "hat" or "nap."

 

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Special Notes:

 

1.   The variations above are commonly heard
in casual, friendly conversation, but they
are not normally written (except in very
friendly letters or in comics).
     
2.  

It's fine to use these variations on "No" in
very relaxed conversations with friends, but
they should not be used when polite language
is appropriate. In such situations, any of these
variations might seem disrespectful.

"Nah" and "Nope" are particularly casual.

     
3.  

All of these informal variations on "No"
are frequently used in one-word answers:

A: Are you tired?

B: Nope. / Nah. / Huh-uh. / Hm-umm. / Uh-uh.

     
4.   The pronunciations of Huh-uh, Hm-umm,
and Uh-uh are difficult to show in normal
writing. Ask a native speaker of English to
say them for you.

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