English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My friend asked me for a tool to do something and I wanted to ask him if he wants me to do it for him but I mistakenly said "I'll do it to you". Is that offensive?

share|improve this question
Seems like it would depend a good deal on the prosody – Cameron Aug 31 '12 at 15:44
What sort of offence are you worrying about? Can't you just say what you meant to say immediately afterwards? – Mitch Aug 31 '12 at 16:01
I'm worried that it may mean something sexual – akram Aug 31 '12 at 17:52
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The sentence itself could be offensive, particularly because without any context, "do it" can be interpreted as sexual.

In the context you describe, though, it should be obvious that it was a mistake for "I'll do it for you."

share|improve this answer
  1. Approximately 87% of all English sentences that have ever been said or written can and will be interpreted as a sexual reference by somebody. People delight in finding a hidden sexual meaning to all sorts of completely innocent statements.

  2. Seriously: If the person you are speaking to is not a jerk, and you are on at least polite terms with each other, then if you accidentally say something that could be considered offensive, he should realize you didn't intend that and just laugh it off as a mistake.

If someone tells you that a remark offended them and you are not trying to start an argument, say it was a mistake, apologize, and that should be the end of it. If it isn't -- if the person insists on remaining offended -- there's nothing you can do. This person likes being offended so that he can complain about how terrible his life is. Shrug your shoulders and move on.

If you are a politician, take it for granted that anything you say that could possibly be interpreted to be offensive, will be so interpreted by opponents.

share|improve this answer

Prepositions are one of the most common mistakes made by 2nd language learners of English as they are often used in different contexts in different languages — what might be 'at' in English could be 'in' or 'of' in French, etc.

I doubt your friend would have given it a second thought, since I presume he knows you're learning English. Lots of things can be interpretted sexually if you try hard enough ;)

share|improve this answer
"If correctly viewed / everything is lewd / I could tell you things about Peter Pan / and the Wizard of Oz there's a dirty old man." --Tom Lehrer, Smut – StoneyB Aug 31 '12 at 18:47

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.