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Aren't you going to go outside?

My wife insists this is improper English, Hillbilly speak, she calls it. The proper way to ask, she says, is Are you going to go outside?

I say it's the same as asking Won't you play with me?, which I do not find offensive.

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5 Answers 5

I don't think there's anything wrong with it. It's a contraction of Are you not going to go outside?, which is perfectly acceptable; the addition of the negation changes the expectation conveyed by the sentence to imply that the speaker thought the subject was going to go outside. This is useful, and it's as meaningful to ask about an event not occurring as it is to ask about it occurring.

I suspect that your wife's problem is really with the sound of the word "aren't", especially when pronounced as one syllable. (Ahr-ənt sounds passably okay, arnt sounds hickish and suggestive of the dreaded ain't.)

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+1 particularly for the presumption implicit in the question. –  CJM Feb 3 '11 at 17:12
    
Aren't can be pronounced as two syllables? News to me. Also, ain't is incredibly standard in London. :-) –  Orbling Feb 4 '11 at 1:08
    
@Orbling: Sure, you just slow it down a little. And of course it's standard in London, London is full of chavs. :) –  chaos Feb 4 '11 at 1:11
    
Oi! Who are you calli.. actually you're right. [I can slow it down, but then it sounds wrong.] –  Orbling Feb 4 '11 at 1:14

To start a question with aren't is perfectly acceptable.

Using the negation in some questions can give to the question a different meaning, and the question could be interpreted as a suggestion.

Aren't you going inside? — The suggestion is to go inside.
Didn't you mean to call Frank? - The suggestion is to call Frank.

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To express a question when not knowing someone's will I would use the more familiar

Are you going inside?

The problem with

Are you not going inside?

is the ambiguity of the single-word-answer "No" along with a double-negative. "No you are not" or "No you are not 'not going' "?

I am no scholar but I am a Hillbilly. We normally just say something like "Ain't ya goin' on in?" which is just horrible in most circumstances.

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Contractions such as "aren't", for example, should only be used in casual/informal speech/writing. So, the answer is that it depends on the context.

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As a foreign English student, my teacher told us the following two facts.

Aren't you going inside

This is a suggestion; it suggests that you go inside.

Are you not going inside

This is really a question. You don't know someone's will, so you ask.

PS: Correction for my English is welcome :)

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