Why do we ask people "What brings you here?" instead of "What has brought you here?" According to Oxford Dictionary, "bring" here means "cause someone to come to a place." The cause of the visit happened before someone's coming. Therefore, isn't the usage of the present perfect more grammatical, as in "What has caused you to come here?"

  • "What brings this question up?" – F.E. Feb 21 '14 at 23:56
  • I never hear either phrase unless reading a book or watching an old movie. – RyeɃreḁd Feb 22 '14 at 5:15

This is a hubby pet peeve and is SO frequently used here in the US. While you're correct that "What has brought you here?" is correct, "What brings you here?" is generally understood to mean something very specific:

"Why are you here?" or "What has caused you to come here?", not what literally brought you (a car, a bus, a cab, a rickshaw).

The other part of that phrase that bothers non-native speakers is that "brings" is in the present tense and is anachronistic in the sense that if you are "here", you've been brought already and are not in the process of having something bring you.

Again, though odd and anachronistic, it is idiomatic to mean "Why are you here?" Edit: ...but in a less direct or confrontational way, as @Oldcat has kindly pointed out to me.

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    "Why are you here?" is a bit more confrontational, as if you really should be somewhere else. – Oldcat Feb 22 '14 at 0:39
  • I agree, @Oldcat, but that is what someone is asking, though in a softer way, when they say "What brings you here?". I think that it's usually in a case where someone needs help or has made an appointment and the person helping them says, "What brings you here?" instead of "What is the purpose of your visit today?" or "Why have you come here today?". – Kristina Lopez Feb 22 '14 at 0:42
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    I agree that the meaning is the same, just this form is used to defuse the original. It is similar to how the server in a restaurant says "May I take your Order" rather than "What do you want?" – Oldcat Feb 22 '14 at 0:44
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    There's no difference in meaning or correctness; both are equally correct. This is talk, remember, not writing. There are some differences, but not many: brings brings more present focus, while has brought seems more formal, and certainly using any unnecessary auxiliaries in what is essentially meaningless small talk is more a mark of sociocultural status than anything else. As W.S. Gilbert put it, "This particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn't generally heard, and if it is it doesn't matter." – John Lawler Feb 22 '14 at 1:11
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    @JohnLawler - We were taught as medical students to ask open-ended questions, i.e. What brings you here today ("Why are you here" being too confrontational.) In PA, the answer is almost always The ambulance or My son. I have taken to asking differently. – anongoodnurse Feb 22 '14 at 7:15

"What brings you here?" suggest that this isn't your first visit, indeed, you keep coming back, and why would you keep coming back?

"What has brought you here?" asks why did you come here in the first place? It might not be the reason you are here now, but something brought you here in the beginning. If this isn't it.


I think "brings" is just colloquial, a friendly informality. The other use is OK, but a bit cumbersome.

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