The Tricky Riddle: What Question Can You Never Answer Yes To?

The Tricky Riddle

Riddles are fun brain teasers that challenge our thinking in clever ways. Often, riddles rely on wordplay, double meanings, or unexpected perspectives to stump us. One such tricky riddle asks, “What question can you never answer yes to?” At first glance, this seems unanswerable! However, with deeper examination, we can unravel the paradox at the heart of this puzzle.

Examining the Riddle Logically

Let’s break the riddle down step-by-step:

  • It asks us to identify a question
  • That can never be answered with a “yes.”
  • This implies that no matter how the question is answered, the response cannot be “yes.”
  • So the answer must be a question where “yes” is an illogical or contradictory response

With this basic logic, we can start brainstorming what sorts of questions would have this property.

Questions With an Implicit “No”

One angle is looking for questions where “no” is implicitly part of the question itself. For example:

  • “Are you asleep?” If you are asleep, you cannot respond at all. If you are awake, the answer is “no.”
  • “Can you speak?” – The act of speaking provides the “no” evidence.
  • “Do you disagree?” – Any response affirms disagreement.

Questions that refer to states of being unavailable or unconscious may fit the criteria. However, it’s debatable whether these absolutely prohibit a “yes” from clever respondents. We likely need to dig a bit deeper.

Self-Contradictory Questions

Self-Contradictory Questions

Another approach is looking at questions that are inherently self-contradictory or contain their negation. For example:

  • “Is this statement false?” – If yes, the statement must be false, contradicting the affirmation. If no, then the statement is true, again a contradiction.
  • “Are you dead?” – If yes, one couldn’t respond. If no, it contradicts the premise of the question.
  • “Have you stopped beating your spouse?” – The question presumes guilt regardless of yes or no answers.

The paradoxes and assumptions nested in these questions seem to get closer to eliminating the possibility of a “yes” response.

Dissecting the Riddle’s Wording

Focusing closely on the riddle’s wording provides another helpful perspective. It asks for:

  • A question – meaning an interrogative sentence or statement inviting a reply.
  • That can never be answered yes to – implying an absolute prohibition of “yes.”

So we need a question in which “yes” is not only illogical or contradictory but impossible as a response.

Finding the Solution

Putting all these clues together points toward one question that matches the criteria perfectly:

“Can you answer this question with a yes?”

Examining why this question fits the riddle:

  • It is an interrogative sentence, meeting the “question” requirement
  • If answered yes, that contradicts being able to answer the question yes
  • If answered no, that also opposes the instruction of the question
  • Therefore, neither yes nor no are possible as answers
  • There is no third option – thus, “yes” can never be answered to this question

The cyclical, self-referential nature of the question prohibits any coherent answer while meeting the technical form of a question. This clever paradox gives this question the special status the riddle demands.

Why This Riddle Is So Challenging

What makes this such a brain-teasing riddle is that it forces close examination of the exact words used while also identifying an abstract, philosophical concept of self-reference.

The phrasing seems simple at first glance. But reasoning through why “yes” can never be answered reveals logical gaps in many types of questions we take for granted as answerable.

Few would think of an interrogative sentence that cannot be reliably answered with “yes” or “no” responses. The quest becomes identifying the right combination of contraction, assumption, and impossibility embedded in the question’s premise.

Mastering this riddle demonstrates precision in analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. We must avoid assumptions, narrow possibilities systematically, test different perspectives and identify the singular solution that fits the stringent criteria.

The History and Impact of the Riddle

This brain teaser is sometimes called the “unanswerable question” or “ultimate question.” Its origins are unclear, but it appears in philosophical texts as far back as the Middle Ages.

The riddle was likely conceived as a thought experiment about logic and the constructed nature of language. It reveals how the rules and conventions we follow when communicating can be manipulated or break down entirely.

In the 20th century, it became popularized in Western culture as “the question that can never be answered yes to.” It became a favorite of logicians and philosophers for illuminating issues of self-reference, truth values, and meaning.

The riddle’s simplicity allows it to be accessible and discussed by anyone. However, the complex concepts it hints at contributed substantially to fields like logic, mathematics, and the foundations of computer science. It inspired innovations that gave us computing breakthroughs, transforming the modern world.

Useful Takeaways

Useful Takeaways for Tricky Riddle

Wrestling with this brain teaser yields a few generally helpful insights:

  • Words must be defined precisely in any logical reasoning
  • Assumptions should be examined skeptically before reasoning forward
  • Counter-examples are a valuable technique for testing theories
  • Creativity and flexibility in perspectives can reveal hidden solutions

So, while designed as an unanswerable riddle, working through the puzzle can strengthen critical thinking skills for tackling all kinds of problems and mysteries.

Mastering challenges like this question trains our minds to spot potential gaps or contradictions in daily statements or questions. We develop sharper abilities to analyze the essence of what is being asked or asserted from different angles to find the truth.

In Summary

This brain-teasing riddle asks us to identify a question that can never be answered with “yes” – an apparent impossibility. Only a self-referential question with paradoxical assumptions built in, such as “Can you answer this question with a yes?” fits the stringent criteria. Wrestling with the contradiction trains critical thinking while revealing insights into language, logic, and the limits of knowledge. This simple yet profound puzzle has stimulated innovations in philosophy and technology while remaining an entertaining and educational diversion.


What exact question fits the criteria laid out in the riddle?

The question that can never be answered with a “yes” is, “Can you answer this question with a yes?” The question’s self-referential paradox eliminates the possibility of a yes response.

Are there any other questions that could work?

No other single question fits the criteria as precisely. Only this self-referential phrasing sets up the cyclic logic prohibiting a “yes.”

Why can’t you answer the question anyway?

Both yes and no responses contradict the question’s premise. Therefore, there is no internally consistent way to respond, and no third option exists. This removes the possibility of answering “yes” at all.

Is this some trick question?

Yes, the riddle is designed around a clever contradiction or paradox. But once the concept is understood, the paradox is based on legitimate logic and not just word tricks.

What use is pondering an unanswerable question?

It trains critical thinking skills by forcing a close examination of language and assumptions we often overlook. It also reveals insights into formal logic that are intellectually stimulating and have driven innovations in philosophy, math, and computing.

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James Barnes


James Barnes is an experienced wedding organizer. He specialized in organizing outdoor wedding events. When he isn’t writing about weddings and marital life, David usually goes swimming or playing squash.

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