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    #1

    What does this "OR" question really mean?

    "Do you need a ride to the airport, or are you driving yourself?"


    I thought this is just a simple "OR" question, asking how the person intends to go to the airport.


    However, some of our native speaker friends say that this is more like a "rhetorical question";
    NOT really asking a question, but expecting the other person to say "I can take care of myself".
    As a non-native speaker, it is quite difficult to catch the real message behind this sentence.


    My questions are:


    (1) Would any native speaker consider it a rhetorical question?
    (2) What would you say if you are willing to give a ride, and just want to ask how the person intends to go?


    Thank you very much for your help.

  1. probus's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: What does this "OR" question really mean?

    I don't think it can be a rhetorical question because of the use of driving yourself. Needing a ride is the opposite of taking public transportation or a taxi. A person who has access to a car does not need a ride.

    As to your second question, I would say "Do you need a ride to the airport?"

  2. mayita1usa's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: What does this "OR" question really mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by hiroff View Post
    I thought this is just a simple "OR" question, asking how the person intends to go to the airport.

    However, some of our native speaker friends say that this is more like a "rhetorical question";
    NOT really asking a question, but expecting the other person to say "I can take care of myself".
    As a non-native speaker, it is quite difficult to catch the real message behind this sentence.
    This is one case where the context, as well as the intonation and attitude of the speaker, can possibly give you more information than the actual words!

    I agree that the words themselves are not rhetorical, and it is a perfectly acceptable question.
    However, I have also known many people who add phrases such as "or are you driving yourself?" to make a separate point, some examples being:
    - I'm being nice to offer, but I'd really prefer that you drive yourself
    - we're having an argument and maybe you'd rather not be with me right now
    - I don't think you should drive, but I don't want to insult you with my offer
    etc....

    This is the cultural part of learning a new language that is SO hard to learn and explain! All languages have things like this - it just takes a lot of experience with native speakers to understand, I'm afraid. Good luck, and have fun!
    Last edited by mayita1usa; 29-Apr-2013 at 06:00.

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    #4

    Re: What does this "OR" question really mean?

    Thank you, Probus, for your quick response and support. Would you help me a little further?
    If it's not a rhetorical question, then how should I interpret this question? What would be the real message behind this? Or, does the question itself make no sense?

  3. mayita1usa's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: What does this "OR" question really mean?

    Did our posts miss each other in cyberspace?

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    #6

    Re: What does this "OR" question really mean?

    Thank you for your detailed and clear explanation, mayita! It's interesting to see the same sentence can be interpreted in many different ways! I agree that the same applies to my native language, too.

    So, if I reply by saying "If you have time, that would be helpful", it could sound awkward in some cases, right? I'd better be very careful...

  4. mayita1usa's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: What does this "OR" question really mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by hiroff View Post
    So, if I reply by saying "If you have time, that would be helpful", it could sound awkward in some cases, right? I'd better be very careful...
    If it is your honest answer, it doesn't sound awkward at all - it sounds very polite, regardless of what the other person was thinking! But again, the final interpretation would depend on your relationship with the person who offered and on the context of the situation.

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    #8

    Re: What does this "OR" question really mean?

    Thank you again for your quick and kind support, mayita! I'm glad to hear the reply actually isn't that bad.

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