I heard people say "What is the damage?" instead of "How much is it?", Does it contain any negative meaning? Or it depends the way and tone they speak?

Thank you.


2 Answers 2


If used when buying something, "What is the damage?" simply means "What is the cost?" In this case, 'damage' implies that the cost is 'damaging' the speaker's finances.

This is usually used in a casual, friendly way.

As with anything, the speaker's tone or the context of the situation may show that the speaker is upset, but the words themselves don't imply that.

  • Thank you Com, I will try to use this word myself then. so let's say even $20 meal, can I still use that? I just consider $20 is not really a "damage"..haha.
    – Hirosue
    Apr 21, 2016 at 6:56
  • 1
    You wouldn't use it if you already knew how much it cost. And I would probably be more inclined to use it when I thought the cost might be high. An example: My wife and I are at a restaurant. She looks at the bill. I don't know how much it is, but I expect it's high. Me: "What's the damage?" Her: "$20" Me: "Oh! Not bad. I thought it would be more."
    – com
    Apr 21, 2016 at 7:22
  • @com: In Flemish dialect, it's an idiomatic phrase to ask for the bill, regardless of your expectation of cost (but it does imply that you don't know the exact cost). The usage in English seems similar, not necessarily implying an expectation of a high cost. Of course, it's possible to imply that you expect a huge cost, but you can do that with any phrase, not just this one in particular. The phrase is merely synonymous with "what do I need to pay you to make us even?", which is also uttered in cases where you've damaged someone's property, including minor damage.
    – Flater
    Sep 6, 2017 at 8:51

One who speaks of "What is the damage?" is not necessarily unhappy.

The speaker simply means to ask how much something that has been ordered or purchased cost.

We would say it in a touch of a tease, more to liven up the atmosphere instead of a complain.

You would use that only after something has been ordered or delivered (after eating at a restaurant for instance).

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