What Does It Mean When Someone Replies With 'Mhm'?

Believe it or not, 'mhm' isn't an acronym

MHM
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Asking a question that requires a simple yes or no answer is pretty straightforward, but if you've ever tried to ask one online (or via text), maybe you've gotten the ever so confusing MHM (or mhm) reply. What does that even mean?

Here's the scoop on mhm:

Mhm is a sound that most English-speaking people associate with "yes."

It's a long "mmmm" sound followed by another long "hmmm" sound (similar to humming).

At first glance, you might automatically assume that mhm has to stand for something given the sheer popularity of online acronyms. But mhm really isn't an acronym at all.

How Mhm Is Used

Mhm is used the same way online or via text message as it is in real life. Generally speaking, mhm always means "yes," but it's not always as clear or enthusiastic sounding as a direct yes.

Here's how it works: One person typically asks another person a question that requires a yes or no answer. If the other person is thinking yes in their head, they may simply choose to type out mhm instead.

When used in real life, mhm be interpreted differently depending on the way the person says it. Tone plays an important role in whether the person is saying yes with enthusiasm or with apathy.

Unfortunately, a person can't really convey their exact tone of voice online or in a text the way they can by using their own voice in person, so you'll have to use other factors to interpret any answer containing mhm.

Context of the conversation as well as the relationship between the questioner and answerer can help you get a better feel for what a person really means when they answer with mhm.

Examples of How Mhm Is Used

Example 1

Friend #1: "Did you get the file I sent over this morning?"

Friend #2: "mhm"

In the first example above, Friend #2 only needs to answer yes or no.

They choose to use mhm, which isn't as clear as yes, but may hint at the fact that a a casual, friendly relationship exists between the two of them.

Example 2

Friend #1: "Hey did u catch last night's game??"

Friend #2: "Mhm, epic play during the 2nd period!"

In the second example above, you can see how context really influences Friend #2's answer. Their comment after saying mhm shows that they're speaking enthusiastically. 

Example 3

Friend #1: "Are you sure you're okay to postpone our meeting until next week?"

Friend #2: "mhm...just need to edit it in my calendar."

In this final example, you can see how context creates the opposite effect of what was interpreted in Example 2. It's clear that the two friends are changing their plans, and though Friend #2 seems to agree to make the change, their use of an ellipsis and an apathetic comment suggests that they may not be happy about it.

When to Use Mhm vs. When to Just Say Yes

Mhm is synonymous to yes, but there's usually a time and a place for it to be used. Here are a few general guidelines to consider if you want to add it to your online/texting vocabulary.

Use mhm when:

You're having a super casual conversation. Texting a friend? Answering a question on Facebook?

You're probably fine to use mhm.

You have more to say after you give your answer. As mentioned above, mhm is largely influenced by context, so if you wish to leave a comment related to what you're saying yes to, your mhm answer will reflect that.

You're thinking "yes" should be your answer, but feel indifferent or possibly opposed to it. So you know you need to say yes, but your feelings aren't totally there with it. A simple mhm may convey that if you want the questioner to pick up on your indifference or opposition.

Use yes when:

You're having a proper or professional conversation. If you're emailing your college professor, talking about a serious problem, or having any other conversation that requires no joking around, your best bet is to stick with just saying yes.

You want to be clear as day about your answer. Not everyone knows what mhm means, nor are they able to interpret it as a sincere yes depending on how it's used. Stick to saying yes if you want no confusion about your answer.

You have no doubts about saying yes. When you say yes online or in a text, people will typically take your word for it. Say yes when you want to make it known that you're not really thinking or feeling a possible no.