I asked a friend of mine to read something (on skype), and he declined the offer.

Then he asked me to play a game, to which I replied, "I have better things to do."

Then he wrote back, "Exactly! Why I didn't read."

Then we got into a debate about whether it was grammatically correct.

I believe that if he had said "Exactly why I didn't read your text", it would have been correct or even something like "Exactly why I didn't read", but he says he is correct.

Can you tell me whether he is mistaken or I am?

  • 4
    I thought you had better things to do... :P
    – Daniel
    Jul 6, 2013 at 15:20
  • 3
    Neither one of you had time to do something the other asked you to do, but each of you had time to argue about something trivial. Lovely. Jul 6, 2013 at 15:50
  • Its because I asked him what "Exactly! Why I didn't read." meant then he insulted me so I felt the need to defend myself.
    – user47331
    Jul 6, 2013 at 21:43

2 Answers 2


He is mistaken. A correct formulation would be (notice the that):

That is exactly why I didn't read your text.

Why I didn't read cannot stand by itself because it lacks an object (that and text in the above example).

  • terdon, so you think that the (indirect) object is not 'text', but 'that'?
    – user19148
    Jul 6, 2013 at 15:40
  • @Carlo_R. I am saying that I didn't read has no object.
    – terdon
    Jul 6, 2013 at 15:42
  • ...making it a phrase or sentence fragment instead of a full sentence because it was missing an object. Jul 6, 2013 at 15:46
  • terdon, I think you need to clarify your last sentence, removing grammar ambiguity; otherwise you run the risk of having the answer downvoted.
    – user19148
    Jul 6, 2013 at 15:49
  • @Carlo_R. better?
    – terdon
    Jul 6, 2013 at 16:14

There's nothing wrong with this.

You're friends, so grammatical flexibility exists between you. It's fun to play with language, or maybe he was trying to be more efficient.

Grammatically it's no good and it shouldn't go in an essay, but don't be so hard on the guy! If you pay close enough attention, you'll see people make these kinds of mistakes in speech and online chatting all the time. In most cases, no one notices, and even if they do they forget about it soon enough. This is because we're capable of filling in the missing pieces in most situations and can understand 'broken up' or 'incomplete' transmissions for this reason.

It wastes a lot of time to be nit-picky about this with a fluent speaker. By definition he knows how to speak English perfectly, and therefore also knows what rules can and cannot be bent. He may say something like "why I didn't read" instead of "that's why I didn't read your thing" but he would never say "read I why didn't".

This is the distinction between "descriptive" and "prescriptive" grammars, essentially. English papers (and all academic/official writing) uses prescriptive grammar, in which the rules are created to be followed. Conversation and other informal language uses descriptive grammar, in which the rules are innate and up in your brain already, and it's the job of a linguist to figure them out!

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