Confusing Words Words of the Week

yau and yo

There’s more that one way to say ‘yes’ in Pennsylvania Dutch. Learn how and when to use ‘yau’ and ‘yo’.

Is there more than one way to say ‘yes’ in Pennsylvania Dutch? Yes, actually.

  1. yes = yau (to agree; opposite of no)
  2. yes = yo (definitely yes or absolutely yes; for emphasis)
  3. yes = yo (actually yes)

1. yau = yes

The most common way you’ll say yes in Pennsylvania Dutch is yau.

Yau means exactly what you’d expect it to mean—yes. Use yau when answering questions. It’s uncomplicated, and the opposite of nay (no).


While yo also means yes, knowing when and how to use yo is trickier and depends on the conversation.

… knowing when and how to use yo is trickier and depends on the conversation.

Let’s look at 2 of the most common ways to use yo in a Pennsylvania Dutch conversation.

2. yo = definitely yes

In some areas, yo is used to emphasize yes—as in, definitely yes. It can be used either in response to a question, or to a statement you really agree with.

Examples of definitely yes

Vitt samm ice cream?
Yo, ich du!

Eah is reeli am vaxa.
Yo, yo, yo.

3. yo = yes (actually)

You can also use yo for yes when responding to a question or statement that the other person assumes the answer to is no. Probably the closest to English would be: actually yes.


Person 1: ’Sis am shnaya grawt nau. Du bisht nett am do hivva kumma, gell?
Person 2: Yo. Ich zayl glei datt sei.

In the example, person 1 doesn’t expect person 2 to be coming over since it’s snowing. However, person 2 says the equivalent of, “Actually, yes. I will be there soon.”

Another example:

Person 1: Da Henry shaft nett heit, gell?
Person 2: Yo. Eah shaft biss middawk.

Again, person 1 thought Henry wasn’t working today. But person 2 says that actually (yes), he works until lunch.

As you can imagine, this use of yo is pretty limited and you probably won’t use it very often. But it’s good to know in case you hear someone else say it to you.