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My English teacher always asks “Did you it?” when she wants to know whether some student has done an exercise.

I think her question sounds horrible, and I believe it is wrong. In my opinion, she should say “Did you do it?” instead.

I would like to know whether “Did you it?” is in fact wrong.

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15  
"Did you it" makes absolutely no sense to me. –  American Luke Nov 5 '12 at 20:27
3  
Tell her "syntax error, does not compute". Without a wild card character (! or * or ?) to take the place of action, complete, do, execute, follow or understand, it definitely makes no sense... ;-P –  stealthyninja Nov 5 '12 at 20:31
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"Did you it" is grammatically correct and even means what your teacher intends it to mean. It is, however, not what a native speaker of English would say. So it is neither right nor wrong, you could say. –  MετάEd Nov 5 '12 at 20:31
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Sorry, I don't mean to judge but unless you missed class the day your teacher explained why he/she would use such a fractured version of a question, I think it would be doing students a disservice to think that question is acceptable among average english-speaking people. –  Kristina Lopez Nov 5 '12 at 20:40
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@MετάEd I would argue that questions using simple inversion without a do-auxiliary are no longer grammatical in Contemporary Standard English. Not even the Silmarillion uses it. Nor the Lays of Beleriand. –  tchrist Nov 5 '12 at 20:46

1 Answer 1

up vote 19 down vote accepted

A yes–no question that begins “Did you. . . ?” is invariably, or mandatorily, a do-auxiliary inversion. It cannot stand alone as an actual non-auxiliary. You have no verb afterwards, because to it is not English. You cannot say any of these:

  • Spoke you it?
  • Called you her?
  • Ran you the race?
  • Think you so?
  • Called you?
  • Gave you it?
  • Proposed him to her?
  • Have you it?
  • Did you it?

in Contemporary English. That is super-archaic. It might not even be understood.

It is very hard, but not impossible, to make sentences with only pronouns but no verbs come off as grammatical. Here is one such example:

“What about the Smiths? I gave her a letter.”

“And I, him.”

But just having a lone, inverted do-auxiliary without a verb for it to help out on is not going to work.

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4  
"Have you a candle?" is legit, no? –  Charles Nov 5 '12 at 21:37
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@Charles: That's pretty "marginal" in contemporary English. We'd nearly all say either "Do you have a candle?", or "Have you got a candle?". –  FumbleFingers Nov 5 '12 at 21:40
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"Have you a good reason for not doing your homework?" would probably be preferred by some - perhaps most - people over "Have you got a good reason for not doing your homework?" There is little logic behind what is and what is not allowed, and why usage has changed over the years. "A good time was had by all" is a very rare allowed passive usage of have (in this sense): "A problem is being had, Houston", or even "A whale of a time was had by us all" are ungrammatical. –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 5 '12 at 23:47
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@FumbleFingers As was my response; must I smiley everything of humorous content? I was merely repeating the OP’s question, you see. The point remains that while something like “Think you so?” is formal perhaps even to the point of being archaic, that something like “Did you it?” is at best obsolete, for if ever it was understandable, that day is long past. It cannot coëxist with our modern do-auxiliary yes–no question syntax, against which it gardenpaths to nonsense. The OP is 110% right on this. –  tchrist Nov 6 '12 at 4:42
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@FumbleFingers Baa bah black sheep, have you any wool? Plus various from JRRT, Gene Wolfe, George Martin: “Have you athelas?” “Or have you no wits left?” “Have you a guess?” // “Have you need of money?” “Had they reason to hate me?” “Have you faith in the coming of the New Sun?” “Have you a knife?” // “Have you no honor?” her aunt said sharply. “Have you no smile for me?” Has he a good heart, a gentle hand? “Have you proof of that?” “Lord Captain, have you no greeting for a brother long away?” “The big crow can peck the little crows, [...] but has he belly enough to fight a man?” –  tchrist Nov 6 '12 at 5:33

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