What does the phrase "If you have to ask..." mean? It is usually used as a hanging sentence, I see it on TV shows all the time and I am not sure what is meant by it.
Does it mean if you have to ask, then the answer is not what you want to hear? Or does it mean if you have to ask, the answer is "no"?
Is there a more subtle meaning to it?
Another common use for this phrase is:
"How much does that cost?"
"If you have to ask, then you can't afford it."
Meaning it's too expensive for anyone that is counting their pennies.
The reason that it is often left as a hanging sentence is that the second half of the sentence varies based on the context.
Other than what has already been mentioned by others, some complete sentences that come to mind, "If you have to ask, then I'm not going to tell you," and "If you have to ask, then the answer is 'no.'" "If you have to ask, then the answer is 'yes.'"
It always means, "By asking the question, you've answered the question."
For example, "Do these pants make my butt look fat?" If you have to ask...
...then you already know that your butt looks fat in those pants.