Who doesn’t love a good riddle? Sometimes a brainteaser is just what you need to get those neurons firing. The riddle that has a lot of people talking right now is “What question can you never answer yes to?” We’re going to take a (much) deeper look at this question and see what answers we can find.
Well, I won’t spoil the answer to that one just yet, but it certainly got me thinking, in all seriousness, what question can you never answer yes to? There have to be some, surely. However, before we can really address the question at hand, we need to address a few interesting points.
Because, when you start to think about riddles, you realize that they are often simple in their complexity. However, their very nature is to deceive, thus warranting the extra thought. So before we go riddle-solving or even answer the question posed, we need to think a little deeper about what we are asking.
Want to skip the philosophical stuff? Check out the top 10 questions you can never honestly say yes to (broken down by category):
- What question can you never answer yes to?
- What is a question YOU can never answer yes to?
- Where yes or no is a meme
- When yes would incriminate you
- Vs. Loaded questions
What Is the Point of a Question?
We won’t go too far down the rabbit hole with this one, but it’s important to think about the question itself. When asking what question can you never answer yes to you, you need to stop and ask yourself, what is the point of asking a question at all?
In short, asking a question is information gathering. It is how we learn. It’s how we sate our curious nature. We teach our children to be inquisitive and always to ask, ask, ask.
So, if the point of asking a question is to get information, it stands to reason that there are plenty of questions that you can never answer yes to. It merely depends on the way the question is asked.
That brings us back to riddles again. Really, a riddle is just a question asked in a confusing or misleading way. It may be humorous, ironic, or mean spirited–but it always requires careful consideration before answering.
We also need to stop thinking of questions as being a single-answer scenario. They are far more complex than that.
In school, or when we ask questions to learn something factual, the answer you get will be the same, regardless of who asks and who answers. At least, it should be. Of course, someone could answer the question wrong, but that’s a different tangent altogether.
Then you have the questions that have variable answers. Personal questions, the answer to which the poser of the question does not know.
More often, these would be the questions you can never answer yes to. This is because these questions are designed to gain knowledge not previously shared or known. It could be a straightforward question like, did you sleep well? or it could be something that’s asked to serve a more profound, hidden purpose.
Why Would You Answer Yes?
If you think about it, there is no shortage of questions to which you cannot answer yes. Yes is such a definitive answer. It leaves no room for doubt. If you were to think about a question you can’t answer yes to, then it would surely be a very long list. In fact, there are probably more questions on this list than any other.
Not only is yes a very definitive answer, but it is also answers an incredibly specific question. Asking a question that only offers a yes or no answer means you have already narrowed down the field to a choice of just two. It almost begs the question of why you even ask at all.
To me, questions are conversation starters as much as they are information gatherers. In turn, I find that yes is more of a conversation destroyer. If you pose a question and the only answer you get back is a single word answer, that is a sign that that person is not interested in a conversation.
In the linguistic world, a yes or no question is called a Polar Question. They are closed-ended questions designed to get a single answer and move on. There are many who say that many of these are not really questions at all.
Closed-Ended Questions Can Manipulate the Answers
Much like when talking in riddles, the way closed-ended questions are posed can impact the answer that comes from it. Of course, this goes down two pathways.
One the trickster using words for fun. You don’t not want a cup of tea, right? The other is the question posed to lead those being asked to choose a particular answer. While this works more with children, anybody who has a tendency to be more submissive and compliant could be led down a path to a particular answer. In turn, that nullifies the point of asking the question in the first place.
So one possible answer to what question can you not answer yes to could be a question that is posed in such a way the answer they want to hear is always going to be no. I mean, it doesn’t make a great riddle, but at least it is factually correct.
Closed-ended questions are also less effective when in a group. By this, I mean the answers gained from asking are less reliable.
If you ask one person if they enjoyed something, they will answer yes or no. We will assume they answer honestly. If you introduce a group of people into the equation and ask the same question, peer pressure and the naturally compliant nature of most people will dilute the accuracy of the answers. People will look to move with the voice of the crowd to avoid causing a fuss.
The Importance of the Word No
Conversely, we need to look at the actual answer to a question you can never answer yes to. To put it simply, what do you always say no to?
Again this is largely subjective and depends heavily on the style of question being asked. First, however, it is crucial to understand the power of answering no.
No is one of the most powerful words in the English language. Sadly, however, many people do not realize it and underutilize no as an answer in most situations.
The word no has a stigma to it that many of us fail to understand. We are fearful of the word. We worry it makes us sound rude, awkward, and difficult. Whether it’s at work or out with friends, saying no carries with it a weight of responsibility few are willing to bear.
When to Say No
We treat it like a dirty word that should not be uttered unless under the most extreme circumstance. However, in reality, no is an empowering word. It gives us the chance to take charge and make a statement.
It is a protective word, but one that does not always have to be necessarily negative. For example, when asked a question you can never answer yes to, you need to think about the reason for your answer. While it may be negative to the person asking, for you, it is a positive answer.
Standing up and answering no to a question is a very empowering thing that lends itself to other benefits. First and foremost, it is a response that gives back to us. It gives us control and confidence while gaining us respect and saving us all time.
So when thinking about what question you can never answer yes to, the answer really should be any question at any given time. Again that makes for a terrible riddle, but the more control you have over the word no, the better your life will be.
Top 10 Questions You Can Never Answer Yes To
As should be quite clear at this point, there are multiple ways to approach this question. Let’s deconstruct some of those, with examples of what you can never answer yes to.
Often, the intent of a question is a matter of intonation. When written down, the sentence is read in a single way. However, if we were to stress a single word a little differently, everything changes.
The “what question can you never answer yes to” riddle is an especially interesting one because when you look, there are several different answers possible. They all follow the same theme.
What question can you never answer yes to?
- Are you asleep/dead? – Answering yes to these destroys all credibility to the claim, unless you’re being intentionally hyperbolic.
- Are you mad/crazy? – The thought behind this being a mad person won’t admit to it because they won’t know they are mad.
- Is everything you say a lie? – Honest people answer no, and a liar, well, they would lie.
However, let’s change the intonation a little.
What is a question YOU can never answer yes to?
See that, everything changes, and the riddle is now a far simple affair, as it is personal to you as an individual, rather than you as a group.
- Don’t you think you’ve had enough coffee? – For me, there is never any hope of me answering yes to that question.
Setting riddles aside, the real world is full of scenarios where “yes” is almost always the wrong answer. Being aware of these trick questions can help you help you stir up some good-natured trouble–or avoid it altogether. The following examples of questions you can never answer yes to are less bound by logical convention, and more by context.
Where yes or no is a meme
Following that some questions are set up to beg a specific answer, you could ask something memetic that plays on a shared understanding of a question’s context. It might not strictly be true to say yes, but for the purposes of funning around, it is. For example:
- Is The Winds of Winter out yet? – The answer has been no so long, that a yes is bound to provoke some level of disbelief or further conversation.
- Will Half-Life 3 ever get released? – It’s been 16 years. At this point this question is really only good for the memes.
When yes would incriminate you
Interrogation techniques pull a lot of the same levers as riddles, so you have to take care about where specific lines of questioning are leading. After all, in many countries you have the right not to incriminate yourself. Examples include:
- Do you know why I pulled you over? – Obviously, you don’t want to lie to the cops. But you don’t have to volunteer things you might have been doing wrong in response to an open-ended question. After all, they could easily say “no, but thanks for letting me know about something else I can write you up on.”
- Do you mind if I search your vehicle/house? – Warrantless searches by police are fairly routinely struck down in court, but offering verbal consent to the search waives your right to do that.
Vs. Loaded questions
The logical conclusion of questions leading to an answer, loaded questions set a trap for you to fall into by answering anything at all. A yes, in this case, is as bad as a no, and thus still technically fits the prompt we’re dealing with here.
- Have you stopped kicking your dog yet? – A yes implies you’ve done this horrible thing in the past, while a no implies it’s still going on. In either case, the question provokes a knee-jerk reaction if you’re not paying close attention.
- Does this make me look fat? – In most cases, the person asking this question is seeking reassurance. A yes may be honest, but it hurts to the point where you will probably avoid saying it at all costs. A no, on the other hand, can be seen as pandering and subject to mistrust.
There is no shortage of questions that I, personally, can never answer yes to. Which is fitting because the answer is subjective, as too are questions at the core.
Putting aside educational questions, where the goal is not gathering information but rather confirming that information has been conveyed, all questions are subjective. No answer is a given at any one point in time. Not only will it differ from person to person, but also from day to day for the same person.
That’s why we ask questions in the first place. We don’t know that answer and so check. Even if it’s our spouse, best friend, or family member, we ask because while we may be reasonably sure of the answer, the chance is there that it will change.
Really, every question is a riddle in its own way. It’s all about how you phrase it. Some we hear so often they stop being complicated and become second nature, to the point, we forget they are both riddle and question. They become almost a statement of fact to which a second person provides the ending.
Bringing us back to the question at hand, let me pose it to you. Let us know in the comments what question can you never answer yes to?