Learn English – Is it considered rude language to omit interrogatives in speech


At least, I think the proper word is interrogatives. But, for example, in proper sentence structure, you would see sentences such as,

Are you still here, Alouicious?

Is there a doctor in the room?

In informal speech, sometimes you can omit the actual questioning word, but still pass it off as a question, so long as it isn't confused for a completely different query.

You still here, Alouicious?

There a doctor in the room?

I know it's probably not sound in terms of grammar, but my concern is, is this considered a rude or uncouth kind of language? Or at least, is it considered far less polite than to use the full sentence?

It also shows up in the case of converting, say, "What the <intensifier> are you doing?" into "The <intensifier> you doing?", but I imagine the politeness of that scenario tends to get clouded by the choice of intensifier.

Best Answer

What you are talking about is totally sound in terms of grammar; it's just informal. It's not generally considered rude at all, except on occasions using informal language in general can come off as rude. (Of course, your last example with "what the _" has the potential to be quite offensive, but that would be determined by the profanity you decided to insert into the sentence and not whether you dropped a verb.)

This process is systematic. You are omitting either the copula or the auxiliary verb in an interrogative sentence. This means the word that is dropped is either be, have, or do.

  • (Are) you tired? (copula)
  • (Is) he coming with us? (auxiliary)
  • (Have) you seen anything like this before?
  • (Does) anyone want tea?

People do this all the time; probably more than they realize.

As for "(what) the hell" and such constructions, the dropping of what and the syntax behind it is a bit of a different animal. Profanity often has extra-linguistic properties; even the "what the _" construction (forgetting about omitting what) itself does not follow any kind of normal syntactic structure at all.

(For another example, check out this extremely interesting linguistics paper: English Sentences without Overt Grammatical Subjects. Warning: this paper examines profanity so... don't be surprised at what you read.)

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