I'm wondering how the Romans would have said "yes" as in "yes please" or "no" as in "no thank you". I don't know if they would have said it exactly like that, but what would they have said if they had to mean something like that?


7 Answers 7


In Classical Latin, there were no words exactly corresponding to "yes" and "no". Non and ne were negatives, but they needed to combine with other words (like "not" in English).

There were, however, particles which could be used to agree with something. Both ita and sīc meant "thus", and became words for "yes" in the Romance languages. So if someone asked if you were lost, for example, you could respond "Ita!" ("It is so!"). For a stronger "yes", add vērō ("truly").

"No" on its own was a bit more unwieldy to express. Minimē is "not at all", minimē vērō even stronger. Negō means "I deny it!", nōlī is "don't!".

Another way to respond to a yes/no question is to repeat the verb, in the positive for "yes" and in the negative for "no". So if someone asked "are you lost?" you could say "I am" (sum) or "I'm not" (non sum).

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    immo is also a great way to oppose the speaker's statement if it is not a question. "Fortis sum! --Immo ignavus es!"
    – brianpck
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 18:12
  • 1
    Immo is an interesting case, and I've never really been sure if I'm using it correctly. My understanding is that it introduces further information about the previous statement, but could either strengthen or refute it: "Vivitne Caesar?" "Immo Dictator est." ("Is Caesar alive?" "Not only alive, he's the Dictator!").
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 18:23
  • @brianpck, immo is indeed a good word, but after all the years with Latin I'm still confused about it. I decided to ask about it in a separate question.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 21:17
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    If I ever deny or approve of something in Latin, I say, type, or write "sic est" and "sic non est." Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 14:04
  • There was a suggested edit saying that it should be ita est instead, as ita on its own only means "thus" and so needs to be combined with est. I declined it. If the anonymous user wants to bring that view forward, they should add a new answer. (I would disagree with it.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 21:03

Five years later, I return to give a different answer.

In my previous answer, I claimed:

In Classical Latin, there were no words exactly corresponding to "yes" and "no". Non and ne were negatives, but they needed to combine with other words (like "not" in English).

This is what I learned for formal Ciceronian or Caesarian style. However, this rule doesn't seem to have held in colloquial/casual speech. From Terence's Phormio, act IV, scene 1 (starting around line 568):

DEM: Quid? Qua profectus causa hinc es Lemnum, Chreme, / adduxtin tecum filiam?
CHR: Non.
DEM: Quid ita non?
Demipho: Why? Chremes, for what possible reason would you go to Lemnus? Did you bring your daughter back with you?
Chremes: No.
Demipho: Why not?

(Adduxtin is short for adduxti-ne, and -ti is the older form of Classical -isti: "did you bring".)

Grammatically, this seems to be ellipsis of a longer phrase like non adduxi, "I didn't bring her back". But the result is a short, simple equivalent to English "no", in the context of a yes-or-no (i.e. -ne) question.

  • So also Cicero, Pro Rosc. Am. 54: Exheredare filium voluit. Quam ob causam? 'Nescio.' Exheredavitne? 'Non.' And also In Verrem 1,7: Quid? iudices non [⋯] existimationem populi Romani sequentur? Non: omnia in unius potestate ac moderatione vertentur. (Both examples from L & S, which lists several more Ciceronios locos.) Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 11:35
  • @SebastianKoppehel That would make a good additional answer, if you feel like listing those examples out! It would show quite definitively that my instructors were wrong about non not being good Classical style.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 19:43
  • @Draconis But Terence was an Old Latin author!
    – Ana Maria
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 1:41

The question has already been answered, but I cannot write this long stuff in a comment.

In the book: "Grammaire latine complète, mise au nombre des livres classiques par le Conseil Royal de l'Instruction Publique" by Émile Lefranc.

"In lieu of repeating the question, it's possible to:

-to express "yes", using the affirmative adverbs:

-sane quidem
-ita plane
-ita profecto
-ita est.

= all meaning "yes".

To express the negation, using negative adverbs:

-non vero
-non Hercle vero
-minime vero
-nihil vero minus
-nihil sane
-ne... quidem
-non ita
-non ita est

= all meaning "no".

I will edit it if I find other ways, as listing them is very interesting.
I was surprised to find "non" to say "no", like in French, and not negating anything.
Probably a short familiar form.

  • 3
    Thanks! There is nothing wrong with having multiple answers. In fact, it's better to have more. The selection of different focuses, points of view, and other circumstances make the whole thread more useful. Even though there is an accepted answer, this clearly adds to the matter, so no need to apologize for posting it!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Nov 23, 2019 at 11:41
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    This Stack Exchange is particularly welcoming, explaining everything, and full of good will. It is not the case on most of the SE, where you are downvoted for forgetting a detail, or being the second answers. My answer is not complete, but I'll try to edit it with my researches in Latin grammar.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 23, 2019 at 11:47

At least in a few cases, I have been taught that Ita or ita vero is correct for yes. I have seen it used when answering questions. As @Draconis pointed out, Ita means it is so, and vero means truly or something like that. However, ita seems to be a shorter, more casual form, not different in strength. Another tactic I have seen (rarely) is to just reply with a verb. In English, this would look like: Do you speak Latin? I speak it. A standard form of no (at least for beginners) is minime.


I know this thread is about Classical Latin, but regarding Medieval Latin, in the 11th century Petrus Abaelardus (1079-1142) wrote a scholastic text entitled "Sic et Non".

From Wikipedia: "In Sic et Non, Abelard presents 158 questions that present a theological assertion and allows its negation." The first three questions are: 1) Must human faith be completed by reason, or not? 2) Does faith deal only with unseen things, or not? 3) Is there any knowledge of things unseen, or not?


I know some people say that you can just use Ita or Vero but I would say that you can just respond by saying "Ut dicis est." I would translate this as, "it is as you say" to affirm an agreement to the previous statement within the context.

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  • 4
    I think you have something here, but this answer could be improved by examples from classical literature. Can you grab a couple and explain how they are answers in the affirmative?
    – cmw
    Commented 2 days ago

Sīc and Non must have been the colloquial words for yes and no. This is so because most Romance languages, in particular the ones from the core Roman provinces kept them for this purpose. Sim and Não (pronounced nam) for Portuguese, si and no for Spanish, also si and no in Italian

This means that all around the empire they were used with that meaning and so often that they replaces all other forms of yes and no.

This doesn’t mean that it’s usage was perhaps not deemed the ideal or preferred way for the elite, or seen as sloppy Latin. Or that there weren’t other forms.

When in doubt just look at the Latin spoke today by almost 1/4 of the world

  • Apparently Gaul was not a core Roman province? Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 14:41
  • @SebastianKoppehel: Gaul does have si, though! It's just less common than oïl/oc (with a somewhat different role).
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 23:44
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    You may want to see this: https://latin.stackexchange.com/a/3017/78. Also, Draconis mentions Classical Latin in particular, not Latin from any time period, so unless you can demonstrate that sic/non were 'yes/no' in Classical Latin, I'm not sure how this answers the question.
    – cmw
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 17:13

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