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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I'll answer your most common French questions.
The question for this lesson is: What does si mean, and how do you use it?
Si has two main meanings. The first meaning is "if," and the second one is "yes," but only to negative questions.
Let's go over "if" first. If you want to say, "If you come to the party, Madeleine will come too." you use si: Si tu viens à la fête, Madeleine vient aussi.
A common expression using si is si tu veux, meaning, "if you want." For example, Si tu veux, on y va ensemble. "If you want, we'll go there together."
Note that if you use si with il or ils-plural, you abbreviate it to s'il and s'ils to avoid repeating the same letter. So with il, the expression is, S'il veut, je peux cuisiner. “If he wants, I can cook.”
Not so bad, right? The other meaning of si is a little trickier, but I'm sure you'll get it in no time.
You know questions that have negative phrasing, like "Won't you be cold?" or "Aren't you coming?" In English, if your answer is "yes," you'd say something like, "Yes, I'm coming" or "Actually yes, I will be cold."
In French, "yes" in response to a negative question is different from a "yes" to a positive question. "Are you coming?" or Tu viens? is a positive question. If your answer is "yes," you would answer, Oui.
On the other hand, if someone asks you "Aren't you coming?" and your answer is still "yes," then you would say, Si.
Tu ne viens pas chez nous? "Aren’t you coming over to our place?" is a negative question so you’d respond, Si, je viens. "Yes, I'm coming."
In a way, Si puts "yes" and "no" into one word. It's kind of like saying, "No, what you just said is wrong" but "Yes, I'm agreeing."
Here are a couple more examples.
Il ne va pas nettoyer la cuisine? "Isn’t he going to clean the kitchen?" And Si, il va la nettoyer. "Yes, he'll clean it."
Or this one:
Tu n'es pas malade? "Aren't you sick?"
And Si, mais c'est un petit rhume. "Yes, but it's a small cold."
How did you go? If you have any more questions, please leave them in the comments!
A bientôt, see you soon!