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This is a part of a song's lyrics:

... (previous lines in short: I don't like you, but)
Then again it's good to get a call
Now and then, just to say hello
Have I said I hate to see you go
I hate to see you go

I don't understand the clause in bold. It has an interrogative structure, but doesn't seem to be a question, does it? Generally the song says: "Although I don't like you much, give me a call sometimes". But why does that clause have a questioning word order? What is the underlying rule for that?

I have seen changes in the normal order of the words to convey conditional meaning (for example: Had you gone, I would've gone too), or after "neither" (for example: - I don't smoke. +Neither do I), but I don't know what does it mean in the quoted lyrics above.

I'd appreciate it if someone told me for what purposes I can change the common order of declarative clauses.

Thank you in advance.

  • Interesting. How about "Have I said, 'I hate to see you go'?" Oftentimes, song lyrics are designed for their cadence rather than their literal meaning. Some musicians, such as Frank Zappa and Phish, design song lyrics specifically for what they sound like rather than what they say. – Stu W Nov 1 '15 at 4:46
  • @StuW You mean how about if it's an actual question? I don't think that question would fit here. I hope it has a suitable meaning. – Færd Nov 1 '15 at 5:22
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    I think that's why the second "I hate to see you go" appears. Her answer, "No, a sole!" is "understood": it doesn't appear in the song. Obviously, far more poetic to leave it out. I don't believe it's a rhetorical question. – Stu W Nov 1 '15 at 15:35
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This is indeed a question: "Have I said I hate to see you go?" means "I hate to see you go. Have I said that before?". (Of course, no answer is really expected.)

A similar musical example is Van Morrison's "Have I told you lately that I love you?".

In everyday speech, I think "Have I mentioned ___?" is a bit more common, as is "Did you know that ___?". In neither case is an answer usually expected.

  • But does it go well with this context? If a question is to be asked here, it should be "Haven't I said I hate to see you go? Yes, I have! Then why did you stop calling me?" – Færd Nov 1 '15 at 5:06
  • @Farid: Ha. I guess it depends on the effect the speaker is going for. You just did a perfect impression of some people I know . . . – ruakh Nov 1 '15 at 5:18
  • I just got your point. – Færd Nov 1 '15 at 5:28
  • Isn't that the definition of a rethorical question? – Benny Bottema Nov 1 '15 at 6:30
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OK, I'm ready to go out on a limb: 1) It is a question

2) The answer is unwritten

3) The second "[Well then,] I hate to see you go" is in response to the unwritten answer

4) The context/meaning depends on the basic energy of the song. Van Morrison would sing it as a ballad; Pearl Jam [Eddie Vedder] would sing it as grunge frustration; the Grateful Dead would tie it into some darker story with deeper, barely understood meanings.

5) Email the artist and ask. I made a similar request of Kristin Hersh (who?) not too long ago, and she answered my request

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