When going to work today, I stopped to buy a bottle of water in a supermarket held by an anglophone from Nigeria. When it was time to ask him how much is the price of the bottle of water, as a good francophone I asked him : "How much do I owe you ?". And he started laughing. And I'm still wondering why. Isn't it correct ? I know I could say something like "how much is the price of..." or "how much do I give you..." but isn't it also correct to use the verb to owe ?



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    He might have been laughing about your accent. Or maybe something else struck him as funny. Or maybe they just don't use that construction in Nigeria. Whatever, "How much do I owe you?" is perfectly acceptable in retail transactions of all kinds. You could also say "What do I owe?" to make it seem less personal. – Robusto Jul 15 '15 at 11:30
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    Where was this supermarket, @Edouard HINVI? 'How much do I owe you?' is idiomatic American English. – TRomano Jul 15 '15 at 11:55
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    "What do I owe you?" would be a hair more idiomatic in the US, but "How much do I owe you?" is perfectly fine – Hot Licks Jul 15 '15 at 12:19
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    Sounds like you may have been wearing a funny hat. Or forgot to put on your pants. – Misha R Jul 15 '15 at 14:04
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    Nothing wrong with what you asked. There's no telling, from your brief description, why the person might have been laughing. – Drew Jul 16 '15 at 2:42

The use is correct and yes is becoming a little old fashioned due to disuse by the general public. However, people laugh at may different things...in this case I agree with one person here that could be laughing at something else but culturally it might be something from their home country. I think its only fair to have asked why laughing because it could only be sharing in on a good joke you missed because of focusing on make your purchase. i.e. Ive experienced Pacific Asian's in job interviews to smile when they feel uncomfortable.

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