English Language

Do you mind if I...

2018-09-19 18:07 #0 by: Niklas

You often hear people say things like ”do you mind if I sit down?” or ”do you mind if I eat the rest of your cake?”. And the answer usually is ”certainly, go ahead” or ”yes, I have had all I want”.

This seems very strange to me. Is it something I don't get? If someone asks if I mind, and I don't, wouldn't the natural answer be along the lines of ”no, I don't mind” instead of ”yes, bla bla bla”? Yes, sounds like you do mind.

Best regards, Niklas

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2018-09-19 20:45 #1 by: Leia

I've never taken much note of this but you're right it is strange to answer yes, even though the answer yes would come most naturally to me. 

I would guess it is because it is inherently well mannered to ask if someone would mind something, but the person answering knows what you're really asking is "can I sit down/eat this cake?" so answers in that way?  If that makes sense?

All the best, Leia

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2018-09-19 22:56 #2 by: Tammie

In the US if the question were asked, “Do you mind if I sit down?” Or “Do you mind if I eat the rest of the cake?” The typical response would be “No, not at all” meaning No, I don’t mind, go ahead.

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Tammie

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2018-09-20 06:51 #3 by: Niklas

#1: That is interesting! If you were waiting for a friend to take the empty seat next to you, what would be your answer to the question then?

#2: Perhaps this is more of a British thing then. I will take note of whether the person answering is American or British in the future. If you were the one asking the question and the other person responded like Leia would, how would you react? Sit down or find another seat?

Best regards, Niklas

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2018-09-20 09:54 #4 by: Evelina

I dont think the ’yes or no’ response is that important. It is what comes after and the attitude of the person. So if you ask ’do you mind if I take this seat?’ And the other person respond, ’Yeah, of course, go right ahead’ and they are being friendly. Its obvious they mean that they dont actually mind.

I think its the idea behind ’do you mind’ is that what we actually mean to ask is ’can I sit here?’ but we ask more politely, and the other person knows this as well, so without thinking they answer the question to the implicit question, if that makes sense.

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2018-09-21 10:12 #5 by: Niklas

Yes, it does make sense, but it sounds a bit strange as a non-English-native to hear it. :-)

Is it the same when americans ask ”how are you?” and the other person answers ”how are you?”, instead of answering the question? If a Swede asks another Swede, in Swedish, how they are, they are most likely to get an answer like ”I'm fine, thank you, how are you?” They might also get a truthful ”oh, okay, but I've had a cold that I'm recovering from. How are you doing?”.

Best regards, Niklas

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2018-09-21 13:36 #6 by: Evelina

Yeah, I think so. Or people just don’t register what is being said and asked, it’s like auto-speak when you run into someone or meet them.

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2018-09-21 15:33 #7 by: Niklas

Okay. I think many Swedes aren't as good at, or understand, auto-speak. :-)

Best regards, Niklas

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2018-09-21 23:11 #8 by: jordan

#2 This was the exact same way I thought about it.

#4 Yeah I think this is the more important part, for me usually I say 'yeah go ahead' more often than not.

I think that the 'do you mind' bit is often used by people to sound more polite, if nothing else.

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