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Life would be a lot less painful without love, don't you think?"

Life would be a lot less painful without love, don't you think so?"

Do they mean the same? Or they have slightly different meanings?

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  • "Don't you think?" sounds wrong (in AmE, I don't know about BrE or other). The native expectation is to always say "don't you think so?". That is, they have really different meanings because the first one doesn't have any meaning at all!
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 14:24
  • That is, in that context of making a statement and following it with "don't you ...?". If out of that context and if you're asking if someone is thinking at all, you can say "Don't you think?" meaning in general.
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 14:27
  • @Mitch: I disagree in toto (though from a BrE perspective). Don't you think? is a tag question here, and correct; *don't you think so? would be a run-on sentence, and so actually ungrammatical. Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 11:17

1 Answer 1

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Life would be a lot less painful without love, don't you think?

Life would be a lot less painful without love, don't you think so?

To some extent this might be a matter of opinion. However I'll give mine.

1. I would say that:

(a) 'don't you think?' is almost a throwaway line that seeks (and probably assumes) confirmation of the speaker's opinion.

(b) 'don't you think so?' is a request for information. It seeks the opinion of the listener.

2. I would expect a difference in intonation.

(c) 'don't you think?' would be unemphasised and take a descending tone.

(d) 'don't you think so?' would be stressed on the word 'think' and would have a rising tone towards 'think' followed by a descending tone afterwards.

Note

Intonation and stress are very important in such cases. The way you speak a tag question can change its effect quite strongly.

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  • I would say that, absent a difference in intonation, there's no difference, though the "so" version would be more likely to be used when the question is not rhetorical. (And of course, as any Minnesotan knows, the proper way to state the first sense is "Dontcha know?")
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 13:43
  • @HotLicks, so essentially you agree with me. I'm not sure that English is ever spoken without intonation--except perhaps by speech synthesisers or by humans when imitating robots. That's one reason these 'difference in meaning' questions can be so tricky. Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 13:49
  • Yeah, and it's one of the biggest failings of IPA.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 13:53
  • Let's invent an improved IPA! I thought of doing it with standard musical notation. However that doesn't deal with glides (maybe I should say glissando) or fractions of a semitone very well. Any suggestions as to how to implement it? Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 13:59
  • I think first one needs to actually study intonation. There does not even seem to be much agreement as to what a "question" intonation is, one of the most basic of them. (But, interestingly, one that does have an IPA notation of sorts: ?.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 18:50

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