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Child: Mister Jackie is a bad man.

Detective: Why is he a bad man, sweetie?

Child: He follows me into the bathroom.

Detective: Why does he do that?

Child: When I have to go.

It's a dialogue from a TV show. I'm not sure it's 'why' or 'when' but the script says it's 'why'.

Detective asked 'Why does he do that', but why he anwered 'When I have to go'? I can't understand what it means. Please help me to understand it perfectly!

(My native language is not English. Please be kind to me. :-))

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    Firstly, you can't expect a dialogue with a young child to be an example of perfect grammar. Obviously this is a delicate subject and the child doesn't answer the detective's question directly. Instead of saying why the man comes into the bathroom, he/she hints at the circumstances when this happens (when they are using the toilet). – Kate Bunting Oct 11 '19 at 7:29
  • So it's not perfect grammar. Thank you for telling me that! – DayDreaming Oct 11 '19 at 7:42
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    There's nothing wrong with the grammar of the child's answer, it's just not a direct answer to the question. You can't assume from what a child says in an embarrassing conversation that it's 'correct' to answer a 'why' question with 'when'. – Kate Bunting Oct 11 '19 at 7:55
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    It is grammatical, but so is 'colourless green ideas sleep furiously'. It doesn't make perfect sense in the context, however, as as Kate has said, it's a child, and a delicate subject. – marcellothearcane Oct 11 '19 at 11:50
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I believe the child is just misinterpreting the question a bit. The detective asked "why", but the child interpreted this as meaning "under what circumstances".

Or he could just be phrasing the answer poorly, meaning "Because I have to go."

All these concepts are easily conflated, especially by a child in distress.

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  • Thank you for detailed commenting! – DayDreaming Oct 12 '19 at 3:18

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