"Why don't you" is a commonly used expression to suggest something to others. However, when it gets directly translated into my language, Korean, it can be a little rude and offensive, depending on the context.

For example, for a question "May I ask you where the QWERTY center is?", answering "Why don't you go to the information desk?" feels as if it was "There's where you can ask there, so do not ask me!".

So I became curious; are there any cases where "Why don't you" is offensive, in common English?

closed as primarily opinion-based by FumbleFingers, Dan Bron, David, RaceYouAnytime, Davo Sep 6 '17 at 11:48

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  • Why don't you pull the other one? – FumbleFingers Sep 1 '17 at 12:39
  • Why don't you take a hike? – Hot Licks Sep 1 '17 at 12:45
  • Why don't you fix us a drink while I slip into something more comfortable? – FumbleFingers Sep 1 '17 at 13:25
  • "Why don't you ever try to take gentle, useful criticism in the amiable, improving spirit in which it is offered?" "Why don't you?" – Sven Yargs Sep 1 '17 at 20:09
  • It is almost inherently offensive (or at least aggressive) when used as a standalone tag question(-ish sort of thing): “Pull the other one, why don’tcha?” – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 2 '17 at 14:28

I think if why don't you is a suggestion, it can be polite, but as the answer to a question, it can imply that the solution was obvious (and the listener must be incompetent to not have thought of it).

For example, if someone is pondering their next step (e.g. "I'm just not sure what to cook for my dinner party...") a friend can make an earnest suggestion using why don't you (e.g. "Why don't you text your friends and ask if they have any preferences?" or "Why don't you look at some food blogs?") and seem perfectly polite.

If the question is straightforward, however (e.g. "Where is the metro station?") any answer other than a straightforward one is rude (e.g. "Why don't you google it yourself?").

I think the rudeness doesn't stem from why don't you, but from the fact that one person is giving a "suggestion" where a straightforward answer is expected.

  • +1 This is a good first answer. Welcome to the site. I hope to see you sign up and answer more questions here. – NVZ Sep 2 '17 at 14:49
  • A rare +1 for an answer lacking references (I wouldn't know where to look myself). – Edwin Ashworth Sep 4 '17 at 10:04

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