Do you want fries with that?

firebus's picture

"Do you want to do X" is a surprisingly ambiguous question. Since people are hesitant to directly tell someone else what to do, or sometimes even to express their own opinion or desire, this kind of simple question can mean a lot of different things:

  • I demand that we do X
  • I think we should do X but I'm open to other suggestions
  • I want you to decide what to do, but I'm including one option for rhetorical or predictive reasons.
  • I want to know what you want to do, and I'm including one option for rhetorical or predictive reasons. (i.e. I have no interest in doing anything, I'm just curious about your opinion)

I hope there's some language that has a mechanism to disambiguate these kinds of questions, so that people can indicate how forcefully they hold their own opinion, and how interested they are in hearing your opinion as well.

In the same continuum of meaning, but not covered by this ambiguous question, there's also "I want you to decide what to do, don't make me think about it."


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