33

If you had $200 cash on you right now, and I asked you if you had $100 on you, would the correct answer be yes (always/no matter what other conditions there are), no (always/no matter what other conditions there are), or it depends on the situation?

My answer would be "yes" (always), because if someone asked me if I had $100 because he/she wanted to borrow it (and I had more than $100), then my reply would be "yes." I asked this question before (before deleting it because it was off-topic) on another stack exchange (I would think this topic belongs to philosophy SE at least on interpretation of context alone), and most of the answers were "it depends on the situation." But, I cannot imagine how it could depend on the situation.

If "it depends" if I have $100, that doesn't even make sense to me? Either I have $100 or I don't. Is the response "it depends" wrong or is it a situation of semantics?

If someone wanted to know if I had exactly $100, then he/she could ask me if I had exactly $100.

Edit: The responses seem to be a bit divided with most people answering "it depends." I just thought that "have" can be construed as "in possession of" so usually (depending on context, but in this case it's a yes) it would mean "at least" while other words like "brought" and "give" don't have the same implications (and mean "exactly").

Another example: Do you have a pet dog? (Has a pet dog at home but is not with him/her) I would say the honest response is yes here because of the context and "have" can't be construed as "in possession of" here, but in the above example with money, I would say it can (no matter what other conditions there are).

Do you have a pet dog? (Has 2 pet dogs at home but they are not with him/her) I would say the honest response is yes.

Do you have one pet dog? (Has 2 pet dogs at home but they are not with him/her) I would say the honest response is no (because "have" doesn't mean in possession of here).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Geoffrey Thomas Aug 27 '19 at 17:49
  • 3
    Your answer to such a question can be technically correct but still a lie. A lie isn't a falsehood, it is an intentionally misleading statement. So it isn't the answer, but the intent that determines whether it is a lie. – MPW Aug 27 '19 at 18:23
  • 6
    That's the difference between mathematics and colloquial speech. – Carl Witthoft Aug 27 '19 at 19:00
  • 13
    The street-correct answer is "no". – Kaz Aug 27 '19 at 20:50
  • 11
    Applying this kind of logic too rigidly is a case for the Interpersonal Skills site. It drives other people mad if you apply mathematical logic to everyday chatter, especially if accompanied by a supercilious smirk. Please don't. If you do, then people stop talking to you. – RedSonja Aug 28 '19 at 6:37

14 Answers 14

75

I would say it depends on the situation. Specifically, it depends on whether the person asking you the question wants to know whether you have at least $100, or exactly $100. The question could literally mean either, and only the context can decide. The former situation is likely much more common, and includes the example you mention, in which the person wishes to borrow $100.

But consider a similar example. Suppose I tell you I have five coins in my pocket, and then I take one out and throw it away. How many coins do I have left in my pocket? Wouldn't you consider it odd if in fact I have nine, because I had ten to start with?

This is one of those cases where in order to understand the meaning of an utterance you need to judge the speaker's intention in making it. If I volunteer the information that I have five coins in my pocket, it is a reasonable presumption that I am intending to tell you exactly how many I have. But depending on the context, some other intention may be obvious. If we are standing in front of the entrance to some building that charges five coins for admission, then my saying "I have five coins in my pocket" would more likely express the intended meaning that I have enough money to afford the entrance fee, and hence that I have at least five.

This can be understood as an example of Grice's theory of conversational implicature. The speaker's intention may differ from the literal semantic meaning of a sentence, because the utterance needs to be interpreted by its audience in the light of the co-operative principle. In this case, the ambiguity in the question is resolved by what is relevant to the conversation. ("Be relevant" is one of the maxims of the co-operative principle.)

  • 2
    I applaud your elaborate explanation of your answer, but I would say in the example of five coins being in your pocket, I would say it's possible for there to be nine coins afterwards. My answer would only be four coins because it refers to the context of the group of five coins. It does not mean there can't be extra coins. My reasoning is if you have five coins, then you also have four coins. If five coins are in your possession, then four coins are also in your possession. Anyways, good response. – Yukang Jiang Aug 26 '19 at 19:13
  • 41
    @YukangJiang: I don't think there was an issue with having at least four coins left. The claim is that a typical person would consider the phrase "I have five coins in my pocket" to be an exact count, in that context, so stating you have five, removing one, then suddenly having nine would be construed as a deception. This isn't a simple logic question, but one about linguistic conventions and their interpretations, which leads to a fuzzy truth value, which is what this answer is trying to convey. – MichaelS Aug 27 '19 at 5:00
  • 1
    Grice was definitely my first thought when I saw this question in the sidebar. Popped over to see if he'd been mentioned. – Robin Aug 27 '19 at 13:10
  • 1
    this is a pretty good summation, which fits nicely with the point I was going to add in which there are also cultural differences that can change the perception of the conversation. From working in IT, I've noticed that a lot of folks from certain regions don't use words and sentences literally, but more as abstract representations of what they're talking about... Which can be very frustrating for people like me who speak literally. – Taegost Aug 28 '19 at 13:21
  • 1
    There is a big difference between "I have five coins in my pocket" and answering "yes" to "do you have five coins in my pocket". If I have at least five coins in my pocket, "yes" is a perfectly fine answer. Any ambiguity is the fault of the person asking the ambiguous question. But when I'm constructing the sentence myself, I am the person constructing the statement., so I'm responsible for the ambiguity. – Monty Harder Aug 28 '19 at 19:30
44

tl;dr- It's a lie if the speaker intends to deceive the listener(s).

More specifically, it's a lie-by-omission if the speaker intends to deceive the listener(s) by neglecting to mention something that, absent their intent to deceive, they'd have otherwise said.


Lies are communications intended to deceive recipients.

It depends on if there's intent to deceive.

Examples:

  1. Not lying:
    Despite having more than $100, Person B can truthfully answer that they have $100.

    Person A: I need to borrow some money! Do you have $100?
    Person B: Yes.

  2. Lying:
    Despite having $100, Person F can deceptively claim to have $100.

    Person A: I got you all presents! Open them up!
    Person B: [Opens present to find $100.] I got $100!
    Person C: [Opens present to find $100.] I got $100!
    Person D:
    [Opens present to find $100.] I got $100!
    Person E: [Opens present to find $100.] I got $100!
    Person F: [Opens present to find $200, then fearing that this was an error that might be corrected, hesitates to say anything.]
    Person E: Hey, Person F, do you have $100?
    Person F: Yes.

Since lying-by-omission means deceiving someone by not saying something, it typically comes up in a context in which a reasonable person wouldn't expect omission from an honest person.

In the above example, an honest Person F could've called attention to the fact that they received $200 while everyone else only got $100, perhaps asking Person A if this was a mistake and offering to return the money. A reasonable person could've expected Person F to at least point out that they got $200 when prompted by Person E.

Because Person F crafted their communication in a manner intended to deceive, they lied.

Because Person F's mode of lying was not providing information that a reasonable listener would've expected an honest speaker to provide, it was a lie-by-omission.

Note: Here I'm suggesting that this can be viewed as a lie-by-omission, because it's certainly a lie, and its deception is describable as being effected by omission. However, the by-omission descriptor is more perspective-subjective. @MichaelS's answer details another perspective in which the lie wouldn't be described as being by-omission.


Reference: Related concepts.

There're a few things that might be confused with lies. Here I'll mention a few to help draw a line between them.

Not lies:

  1. Honest mistakes.
    A person can say something that creates a false impression in listener(s) without lying if they did so based on their own misunderstanding of what's true.

    Person A: I just got $100 in my gift envelope! Do you have $100?
    Person B: [Actually received two $100-bills, but thought it was only one.] Yes.

  2. Misunderstandings.
    A person can say something that creates a false impression in listener(s) without lying if they did so without intent to cause that false impression.

    Person A: [Asking in a context in which they mean exactly $100, assuming that Person B understands this.] Do you have $100?
    Person B: [Has $200.] Yes.

  3. Miscommunications.
    A person can say something that creates a false impression in listener(s) without lying if they did so without intent to cause that false impression.

    Person A: [Sends a text-message to Person B.] Do you have $100?
    Person B: [Tries to hit the auto-suggested response for "no", but accidentally hits the auto-suggested response for "yes".] Yes.

  4. Non-true statements not intended to deceive (e.g., hyperbole or sarcasm).
    A person can intentionally say something untrue without lying if the untrue statement isn't intended to deceive.

    Person A: Do either of you have $100?
    Person B: I've got a trillion dollars!
    Person C: I've got a trillion-zillion-infinity dollars!

    Here, Person B said something that was untrue (and false), but it wasn't a lie because there was no deceptive intent. Likewise, Person C said something that was untrue (and gibberish), but it also wasn't a lie because it also lacked deceptive intent.

    Note: Above, I'm distinguishing between two types of non-true statements: falsehoods and gibberish.

    • A false statement asserts something that isn't true. For example:

      Person B: I've got a trillion dollars!

    • A gibberish statement ("not even false") doesn't assert anything because it doesn't mean anything. For example:

      Person C: I've got a trillion-zillion-infinity dollars!

  5. Secrets.
    A person can keep a secret without lying by not intentionally causing a false impression in listener(s).

    Person A: Do you have $100?
    Person B: I'm not telling you.

To note it, it's not generally possible to be honest while keeping secrets. The specific problem is that an asker can craft questions which are just about impossible to respond to without either revealing the secret or responding deceptively.

For example:

  1. Lying to keep a secret:
    Sometimes a secret-keeper doesn't have the option of honestly keeping a secret since a non-response or refusal to respond would be interpreted in a way that compromises the secret.

    Person A: Did you steal the cookies from the cookie jar?
    Person B: [Did steal the cookies from the cookie jar.] No, not me!

  2. Failing to keep a secret through honesty:
    Sometimes a secret-keeper can fail to keep a secret through honestly not revealing it.

    Person A: Did you steal the cookies from the cookie jar?
    Person B: [Did steal the cookies from the cookie jar.] I'm not telling you.

    This is like a partial break in cryptography: since Person B didn't confess, Person A may not be certain that Person B is guilty, but they still have more information about the secretive matter than before they asked.

  3. Failing to keep a secret despite lying:
    Sometimes a secret-keeper can fail to keep a secret despite lying in an attempt to maintain the secret.

    Person A: Did you steal the cookies from the cookie jar?
    Person B: [Did steal the cookies from the cookie jar.] No, I was out of town that night!
    Person A: No, you weren't. We have you on camera near the kitchen that night.

    Here, Person B did lie in an attempt to maintain the secret, but ended up leaking the secret despite their lie.

It's also possible to lie without deceiving listener(s) if the speaker intended to deceive listener(s). For example, in the above example,

  • Person A: Did you steal the cookies from the cookie jar?
    Person B: [Did steal the cookies from the cookie jar.] No, I was out of town that night!
    Person A: No, you weren't. We have you on camera near the kitchen that night.

, Person B lied despite not deceiving Person A because they intended to deceive Person A. This is, Person B's lie was still a lie despite Person A seeing through it.


Conclusion: It's a lie if it's said with intent to deceive.

In short, a communication is a lie if-and-only-if there's intent-to-deceive.

  • 7
    @Scott Yup, since that'd have been intended to deceive, it'd be a lie. Just like an honest mistake isn't a lie, a dishonest mistake is a lie. – Nat Aug 28 '19 at 5:05
  • 2
    +2! So many people don't seem to understand these days what a lie is. It irks me every time I hear someone say "Oops, I accidentally lied." or "You lied! (when they think I said something incorrect)". Note though, with your "I have a trillion dollars!"... that could still be deceptive, whether or not they actually had $100. If I have exactly $100, and if spending that would leave me broke and starving for 2 weeks, and I answer "Yes!" because I'm ashamed of my poverty and intend to deceive the other person about the implied question of availability, then that is likely deceitful. – Aaron Aug 28 '19 at 18:45
  • 1
    For my example in previous comment, that could even be another numbered section in your answer, though I'm not sure what to title it. A question is asked, you give a statement that is true to the question asked, but given the context there are assumptions made which you fail to address. "We're going to the event. It costs $100. Do you have $100?" Me: "(have exactly $100, but it's the day after monthly payday, I have kids at home, empty cupboards) Yes." Implied question was "Are you able to go?", where you're physically able but not financially. – Aaron Aug 28 '19 at 18:50
  • 1
    And, on the other hand, another case: "I'm going to get a burger. They're $2. Do you have $2?" "(I have exactly $2, but it already has a different purpose) No." No intent to deceive. – Aaron Aug 28 '19 at 18:54
  • 1
    @Scott In your example, you've both lied and told the truth. You've lied, because what you said was not what you believed to be the truth, and is therefore an attempt to deceive others into believing something you believe is false, but you've told the truth because what you said was true. – Monty Harder Aug 28 '19 at 19:44
10

Your question is about lying by omission, and this requires that you define lying. The definition I use is a communication with the intent to deceive. Thus, whether or not you are lying is a function of your intent, more than the actual quantity of cash you have on your person.

Let's examine two cases. In the first, you have $200, and when asked you state no knowing full well that there is $200 in your wallet. In this case, yes, it is a lie.

EDIT 2019-08-28: But here's another circumstance. Let's say while transferring $100 bills from your safe to your wallet, you accidentally grabbed a three instead of two (they were brand new and stuck together). Now, when asked if you have $200, you reply yes, despite the fact that you have $300, you have not lied, omission or otherwise. This is because you committed a mistake and were not aware of this mistake. As your intention is to communicate your sincere belief, then this is simply not a lie.

  • I like your answer up to the point where the 2 examples differ, one resulting in a "no" response and the other resulting in a "yes" response so I'm having a hard time directly comparing them. – Yukang Jiang Aug 26 '19 at 23:13
  • 2
    @YukangJiang: I believe this answer assumes the question is about having $200, rather than $100. In the first case, you know you have $200, but lie. In the second case, you believe you only have $100, so you are mistaken instead of lying when you say you don't have $200. In this case, it might be better to re-word it as having two $50 bills for a total of $100 to be in line with the original question. – MichaelS Aug 27 '19 at 12:01
  • @YukangJiang. To compare them: in example 1, the person understands he has $200, and says he doesn't. In example 2, he doesn't understand he has $200, and says he doesn't. – J D Aug 27 '19 at 15:00
  • Yes, I already understand it now, but thank you. I upvoted him too. – Yukang Jiang Aug 27 '19 at 15:01
  • Thanks @Aaron. The passage was admittedly unclear. – J D Aug 29 '19 at 1:36
7

If someone asks you if you have $100 and you in fact do have $100 then you are telling the truth.

The only way you could falsify that statement is if you do not have $100 which would mean you have less than that amount. It doesn't matter if you have more that $100.

Here is the question:

If you had $200, and I asked you if you had $100, would the correct answer be yes (always), no (always), or it depends on the situation?

I would agree with the OP. The answer is yes. Always. There is no lying involved.

  • surely it depends on whether lying by omission is a lie. and pmuch nothing else? – user38026 Aug 26 '19 at 18:53
  • @another_name There are many things we omit to tell someone who asks us a question. The question and response in this situation seem unambiguous. However, I can imagine situations where the question is different, but that is not what is being asked here. – Frank Hubeny Aug 26 '19 at 19:02
  • 1
    @YukangJiang I imagine those people would suspect that the question, "Do you have $100?" means something other than what it asks. However, from your question, I don't see why one has to second-guess its meaning. – Frank Hubeny Aug 26 '19 at 19:03
  • 1
    Frank Hubeny raises a good point. The question "Do you have $100?" ordinarily indicates that the questioner wants you to lend money or pay for something. If you have at least $100, then the truthful answer is "yes". It "depends on the situation" only if we admit highly fanciful situations. – David42 Aug 27 '19 at 19:05
5

No, You won't be lying. Why this question is raised is because of the common misunderstanding (by the person who asks for money or anything like that).

Let's build the logic (ignoring the context/situation):

  • Person A: Do you have a car?
  • Person B: [Has two cars] Yes.

This would clearly not be considered as lie in any situation.

So, If you say Yes for the Question asked in OP. You won't be lying as you [truly] possess $100, no matter how much more you have.

  • 4
    If person A asks "Do you have two cars" and person B has three cars but just says "Yes" then I don't find it as clear cut – Martin Smith Aug 27 '19 at 8:39
  • 4
    Say it's after a party, and everyone's looking to home. Person A wants a ride, so they ask Person B: "Do you have a car?". Person B does own 2 cars, but since they took an Uber to get to the party, they don't have either car with them. If they tell Person A "Yes.", it'd seem deceptive, as Person A was really asking, "Do you have access to a car that could be used to get out over here?" rather than "Do you have legal ownership of a car?". We could even flip this -- Person B could honestly respond in the affirmative without legally owning a car if they're borrowing a friend's. – Nat Aug 27 '19 at 11:02
  • 4
    "A car" and "one car" aren't the same thing. "A car" is pretty much always generic. "One car" is a specific count of cars and is more likely to be a question of exact count. "I have a car" would often be interpreted differently than "I have one car". – MichaelS Aug 27 '19 at 11:48
  • @Nat And that's why "Not with me" is such a useful response – Chronocidal Aug 27 '19 at 12:11
4

The correct answer to whether "no" is a lie is "it depends". When it is a lie though, it's just a plain lie, not a lie of omission.

Examination of "Do you have $100?"

There are four ways to answer here, depending on the intent and context of the question, which each have their places.

Note 1: Whether I've lied or not depends on my interpretation of the intent, not on the asker's actual intent.
Note 2: Whether I've lied also depends on whether I believe I have $200, not whether I actually have it. These examples presume my belief is in line with reality.

  1. The intent of the question is whether I have at least $100. In this case, saying "no" is probably1 a lie. E.g.:

    a. We're at dinner, your card is declined, and you ask if I have $100, which is clearly the amount of the bill, or the amount leftover after you put your cash in.

    b. I ask you if you can drive me a couple towns over, and you ask if I have $100, which clearly means you're wanting $100 in payment.

    1 There are certainly times when I've deliberately interpreted the question as reasonably asking "do you have at least $100 you will give me?" at which point the answer was "no" and so I answered such.

  2. The intent of the question is whether I have exactly $100. In this case, saying "no" is the truth. E.g.:

    a. I've just gotten a bonus at work and want you to guess how much money I brought home today.

    b. I need financial help and you're trying to ascertain just how much money I'll need to acquire to take care of my bills so you can help me plan how to acquire said money.2

    2 That this would be a good place to then offer the correct amount isn't relevant to the topic, but might bear noting.

  3. and 4. The intent of the question is whether I have approximately $100. In this case, it depends on whether $200 is approximately $100 in my context. E.g.:

    3: I'm looking to buy a television. The salesman points me to that nice one in the center display -- with a price tag of $10,000. You mention that I've only got $100, right? In this case "no" is a lie (unless it's followed by a more accurate answer) because $200 isn't notably closer to $10k than $100 is, and the salesman can't steer me into the correct television category if he doesn't know my price range.

    4: I'm debating whether to buy a $5 milkshake, but you know I wanted to grab that $97 collector's edition of the latest FPS game. You suggest that I might forego the milkshake because I've only got $100, right? In this case, "no" is the truth because $200 is substantially more than $100, allowing me to easily afford both the milkshake and the game.

Lies of Omission

A "lie of omission" is when I refrain from giving you information you didn't directly ask for, but I know that information is directly related to the problem you're trying to solve. E.g.:

a. You need money to pay for something and ask if I have $100 on my person. I have no cash, but I do have a debit card with plenty of money in the attached account. Answering "no" is directly truthful, but is a lie of omission because I know your real question is whether I can help you buy the item right now.

b. I previously said "no" because you wanted the money for cotton candy and I wasn't willing to give you $100 for cotton candy. But now some thugs are demanding $100 or they'll break your arms. You're trying to negotiate something that will keep the thugs at bay, and erroneously state that I don't have $100. At this point, nobody has asked me if I have $100 that I'm willing to part with to save you, so I've neither lied nor told the truth. But I'm lying by omission because I know the $100 in my pocket will (hopefully) save the day and don't bother giving you that relevant information.

As seen above, the correct answer depends on the intent of the question. Deliberately answering a question I know you didn't ask isn't a lie of omission; it's just a lie, because I know the answer to the question you did ask is false.

Conclusion

Because the truth value of the "no" answer depends on the perceived intent of the question, the correct answer to "is 'no' a lie?" is "it depends".

In no case is it a lie of omission, because I'm deliberately giving you false information, not omitting truthful information outside the scope of your question.

  • It should be noted that these cases assume that the liar knows the real amount. Lies are false statements about one's beliefs with the intent to deceive. The statement of the "liar" must be believed to be false (or believed to be deceptively misleading) by the "liar" to be a lie. A simple falsehood is not a lie unless you know better. – Chieron Aug 27 '19 at 14:29
  • @Chieron: Added a note to that effect. – MichaelS Aug 28 '19 at 3:05
2

If you had $200 cash on you right now, and I asked you if you had $100 on you, would the correct answer be yes ...
But, I cannot imagine how it could depend on the situation.

The answer is yes, alternatively:

  1. You have four fifties and zero hundreds, so that's a no

  2. You have debts exceeding one hundred dollars, thus having a couple of hundred dollars in your pocket doesn't mean you have one hundred available, so that's a no

  3. Before you went out you grabbed a pile of cash off of your dresser without counting it, an amount that if counted exceeds one or two hundred dollars. Thus the answer is neither yes or no, it is that you do not know

  4. You can ask me, I can explain that it isn't your concern.

You seem to suggest that you could simply carry an ATM card or some amount of paper money and a few coins, then it would be impossible for someone to guess how much money you have.

Can I call you a cab without knowing your location?

Yes, you are a cab.

It is a false equivalence to equate every situation as a lie by omission; much as folding your money only reduces the length; not the volume or value (unless most of its value is derived from it being uncirculated). It is a lie to try to be clever and misrepresent something in an attempt to deceive others while knowing the truth of the situation to your own advantage.

2

A lie is internal, not external. In many contexts it's not possible to discern a lie with perfect accuracy, if all you have is external observation.

Maybe the person misheard the question? Maybe there was a slip of tongue? Maybe the person remembers wrong? Maybe the person truly believes they have exactly $100?

The external observation of the stated question, the given answer, and the facts that would allow us to truthfully answer the question, is insufficient to determine if an answer is a lie or not.

2

If you have a minimum of $100 in your pocket the answer is yes. "Do you have $100?" is a yes or no question. You can either produce the Benjamin or not.


Off topic but... On loaning money... You have to ask yourself "Can I afford to just give this money away and never get it back? Do I want to give this money away and never get it back?"

If the answer to either is "no" the correct response is "Sorry I just paid my bills and I'm skint".

When you loan money to someone, odds are you'll never see it again because if they could afford to pay their bills, they wouldn't be borrowing money. If they can't pay their bills, they can't and won't pay you back. How much money you have in your pocket is irrelevant.

Sometimes your honesty is simply a device that other people use to take financial advantage of you. By saying no, you are doing them a favor. Not only are you preventing anxiety they might have on pay-day and beyond, about paying you back, they might learn something about managing money.

1

I think the issue here is that you are trying to answer a question which is ambiguous and then taking the responsibility on yourself that maybe you lied.

Any attempts to answer an incomplete question would be inherently incomplete themselves.

The right “answer” to this question should be a clarifying question to the asker about what exactly (s)he meant.

  • I would only ask for clarification if I thought I didn't know why they were asking. If I think I know, i have already "completed" the question in my mind (whether I am right or not is irrelevant). – Dragonel Aug 27 '19 at 18:12
  • 1
    @Dragonel: If you exactly knew what they’re asking, then you could answer correctly. The scope for the doubt about whether I lied or not opens when one completes the question in mind and then realizes that maybe auto-completion was incorrect. – displayName Aug 27 '19 at 18:25
1

Literally interpreted you are not lying. Going further than answering yes is TMI. If it was Perry Mason asking for the purposes of retainer you would never answer more than yes or no as a binary response.

Alternatively, if you have coins in a pocket and someone asks you if have "a coin" you would not normally volunteer information about those other coins you have in addition to the arbitrary coin in question.

Where it becomes tricky is when an attempt is being made to classify you according to response.

Suppose I earn seven figures. We might logically infer that all persons that earn seven figures are also members of the class that earns six figures. Literally this may not be correct and I would be justified in answering "no" when asked if I earn six figures, despite the extension being inferred to mean "at least" six figures.

At least one "Billionaire" objects to the label "Millionaire".

For Customs and Border Protection (for instance) you should declare everything, as an omission may be implied, and considered a serious matter.

1

No, that would not usually be lying.
Do you have $100? Yes. Not a lie. You might also have another $100, five coins of various denominations, a coat, a pair of pants, a shirt, a key, and so on, but none of that, not even the second $100, is relevant to answering the question, in most contexts.

However, if e.g. a border guard asks if you have $10,000, and you actually have $20,000 cash but don't say so, that would be considered a lie by omission and possibly prosecuted. On the other hand, if an immigration officer trying to make a decision on your visa application in advance of a trip to the border asks if you have $10K (to assess financial capacity to pay your costs) and you have $20K in the bank, a simple "yes" suffices without being a lie by omission.

1

I will disagree with the thrust of most of these "it depends" answers, and agree with your feeling in the question: "I cannot imagine how it could depend on the situation." There ARE standard neutral default meanings in language, independent of context. (And philosophy punks itself when it goes off on unnecessary "depends" tangents.)

On the other hand, the default meaning IS more sensitive to the precise wording than you seem to think, given the variations in wording in your question (and title).

First, to answer your question as asked (in the body), “If you had $200 cash on you right now, and I asked you if you had $100 on you, would the correct answer be yes[?]”. Yes. The phrase “cash on you” is important though. Without it, the default meaning would revert to more like “liquid assets”. If you had $200 total in a bank account, it would be (default) accurate to say, “You have $200 right now”, even if it was not on you in cash. (This is only slightly complicated if the question is “$50 on you” and you only have a $100 bill on you. Answer is still “yes”.)

Now your title is ambiguous between two meanings neither of which correspond to the above, because it leaves out the “cash on you” part.

At face value, your title is equally ambiguous between, “Do you have $100?”, and “How much money do you have?”.

If the question is, “Do you have $100?”, the neutral default correct and non-lying answer is “yes”, as long as you have $100 or more in liquid assets, as above.

If the question is, “How much money do you have?”, the default implication of that question is “total”. And the neutral default meaning of that bare unqualified question is “total liquid assets”. Any answer less than your (best guess at your) current total liquid assets (or a qualified “$200 on me”) would be a “lie by omission” as you put it.

I disagree that the meaning of (bare) “have” changes between “pet” and “money” as you seem to be saying in your edit. “Have” means more like “owns” and less like “on your person”, in both cases. See the “on you” distinction above.

And while there may be an important distinction between “mass noun” and “count noun”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_noun, I don’t think that changes the answers. I disagree that answering, “Do you have one pet dog?”, with “Yes” when you have two or more at home is a “lie by omission” as you seem to say. Same as if one were to ask, "Do you have one cup of milk?", when you have more. ("Yes.")

0

If I had 200$ cash on me and you asked me if I had 100$, I would answer 'no' if I assumed you wanted to borrow money and I didn't want that.

That would be a lie as much as you omitting why you're actually asking about the 100$ would be a lie.

I would presume your question would actually be "Do you have 100$ I can borrow?", to which the answer would be 'no'. So I would say it's not a lie depending on the situation.

  • I think your answer is about whether or not a lie is justified, not whether or not a statement is a lie. – WBT Aug 29 '19 at 15:28
  • @WBT A lie would mean I'm trying to deceive someone, while in my example I'm simply answering the question that I think is being asked. I'm willingly skipping parts of the conversation to save everyone some time, based on similar interactions that I've had in the past. The other person would see it as a lie though, since they weren't aware of my mental shortcut. – Stefan Mihai Stanescu Nov 14 '19 at 9:16
  • Your objective is to cause someone else to believe something that isn't true. Maybe you claim that the end result of that justifies the means by which those ends are achieved, but I still think this answer focuses on justifying a lie rather than answering whether or not the statement is one. – WBT Nov 14 '19 at 14:12
  • Let's say a girl says to me "Would you like to go out sometime?". If I thought it was an invitation to go on a date and I wasn't interested, I would answer "No", even if I wouldn't mind going out with her for something that wasn't a date. And if her question was clearer, saying it wasn't a date, I would likely answer "Yes". It's the same with "Do you have 100$?". If that's all the information I get, then the answer you get back will be based on a lot of assumptions. That's not a lie. – Stefan Mihai Stanescu Nov 15 '19 at 10:55

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.