what pray tell compelled you to do that?

donghongzi

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Hi there,
I was watching an episode of Ranking of Kings where queen Hiling said to prince Bojji "You walked out among the public undressed, and what pray tell compelled you to do that? Prince Bojji?"
I know what she's saying but I'm a little confused about the words used there, (have to explain to my students) why won't she just drop the word "tell"? why this word is ever needed here?
I do find some example sentences on Google, but I do not quite get it. hope someone can help me with it here.
 
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5jj

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The phrasing is 'pray tell', not 'tell compelled'. The two words are an old-fashioned way of saying 'do tell me, please'.

"You walked out among the public undressed, and what (do tell me, please) compelled you to do that? Prince Bojji?"
 

donghongzi

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Thank you very much, 5jj! I was stuck at the wrong place after all. and I misunderstood the word pray with prey😅
 
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emsr2d2

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Thank you very much, 5jj! I was stuck at the wrong place after all no full stop here and I misunderstood mixed up the word "pray" with "prey". 😅
Note my corrections above. I don't know what you mean by the underlined part.
 

donghongzi

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Note my corrections above. I don't know what you mean by the underlined part.
Thank you for the correction! What I mean by the underlined part is that I missed the point of the problem. well anyway, that's not important now.
 

Rover_KE

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If the parenthetical phrase 'pray tell' had been enclosed by commas, you'd have had no problem understanding it.
 

Skrej

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The phrasing is 'pray tell', not 'tell compelled'. The two words are an old-fashioned way of saying 'do tell me, please'.

I agree it's old-fashioned, but you still do hear it from time to time. I've been known to use the phrase myself, although when I do it's usually an attempt at humor/sarcasm (or to avoid cursing in front of the wrong audience).

For learners, the phrase is fairly flexible in its position. You'll sometimes see it at the beginning of a sentence, at the end of a sentence, or just about anyplace in the middle of a sentence. It serves as a slight pause (which is why it's usually separated by commas) for dramatic or intensifying effect.

What on earth, pray tell, were you thinking?
Pray tell, what on earth were you thinking?
What on earth were you thinking, pray tell?
 

Tdol

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If the parenthetical phrase 'pray tell' had been enclosed by commas, you'd have had no problem understanding it.
I'd put commas around ,pray tell, too. Mind you, I am not sure that would make the meaning 100% clear.
 

emsr2d2

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I'd put commas around it too. I agree that it might not have made the meaning clear to the OP, but it might have made them realise it was a phrase in its own right and they could have looked it up online.
 
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