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In English, it is common to see some variation of the following two sentences:

  1. Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist party?

  2. Are you friend or foe?

Because these are common statements, we know what to expect: Generally we expect a "yes" or "no" answer to #1, but we expect the answer "friend" or "foe" or "neither" to #2. (A smart-aleck or mathematician might answer "yes" to #2.) We can usually figure this out from context, but in a sentence like this, it's not totally clear:

  • Do you have a dog or a cat?

I'm not sure whether you want me to answer "yes" vs. "no," or "dog" vs "cat" vs. "neither." Even in normal conversation, I think this is often confusing (although it usually doesn't matter very much). If you agree with this, does this same confusion sometimes happen in Spanish? How might we deal with this?

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The situation is similar in Spanish.

  • Do you have a dog or a cat?
  • ¿Tienes perro o gato?

The answer here could be a simple "No", an ambiguous "Sí" or a specific answer like "No tengo ni perro ni gato", "Tengo (un) perro" or even "Pues tengo dos perros y tres gatos".

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