6

Recently I was talking to my friend in English. He started laughing and I asked him Why you're laughing man?

Someone told me you should say Why are you laughing? and this one is totally wrong.

I got a little bit confused. I know "Why are you laughing?" is correct but I can't wrap my head around it fully that mine is totally wrong.

I represented what I meant through intonation of the sentence and my buddy had no problem understanding it. my question is:

The form I used was totally wrong? and I should stop using it?

I'm guessing in written English this form is wrong and if I use it, it's gonna represent a statement, but in the spoken language, since we have intonation I thought it might be unnecessary to emphasize on being totally grammatically correct for every sentence I'm saying.

Am I wrong?

  • 3
    I'll vote for this being a duplicate, kambiz, and I'm 80+% sure that the duplicate will explain things satisfactorily. Whether (subconsciously?) echoing it or merely a re-invention, this 'sentence' is an example of a non-standard (though widely used and well known) form of English known as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). >> Possible duplicate of African American Vernacular English. Best avoided in formal situations, but arguably an acceptable variant in many areas. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 13 '19 at 11:35
  • 1
    You should stop using it. I know of no variety of English that does "Why you're...?". It sounds really non-native to do what you do. Others have mentioned AAVE, but what they do is drop the 'are', not what you do. It is remotely possible that you may want to try AAVE, but that will only be appropriate in circumstances where everybody else is speaking AAVE. So 1) You're wrong, and 2) You should stop using it. – Mitch Nov 13 '19 at 17:02
  • 3
    @EdwinAshworth With all due respect, I'm totally baffled as to why you're proposing that as a duplicate (and even more baffled how four other people agreed). This is a question about using SV word order after a question word, whereas that question, and the answers on it, are completely unrelated to using SV word order after a question word. That question is a question about AAVE, whereas this question is completely unrelated to AAVE. The word order mentioned in this question happens to be vaguely reminiscent of AAVE, but that's obviously not a reason to mark this as a duplicate. – Tanner Swett Nov 13 '19 at 18:06
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth I went ahead and brought this up on meta: english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/13509/… – Tanner Swett Nov 15 '19 at 21:33
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of "Why the Sky is Blue" – Peter Shor Nov 18 '19 at 17:11
5

Generally, when you ask a wh-question (that is, a question beginning with "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," or "how"), you must use subject–auxiliary inversion. By "must," I mean that your question will sound very strange if you don't.

There are are a couple of exceptions:

  • If the question word is (or is part of) the subject of the sentence, it remains at the beginning instead of being moved after an auxiliary. For example, we ask "Who framed Roger Rabbit," not "Did who frame Roger Rabbit?"
  • Some dialects sometimes don't do subject–auxiliary inversion (but I'm not familiar with these dialects or what their rules are). Edwin gives the example "Why they ain't growing?"

So, you have to ask "Why are you laughing," not "Why you're laughing?" Likewise, it would be incorrect to ask "How this happens?" (which should be "How does this happen?") or "When he will arrive?" (which should be "When will he arrive?").

You write:

[I]n the spoken language, since we have intonation I thought it might be unnecessary to emphasize on being totally grammatically correct for every sentence I'm saying.

Well, it's not necessary to be totally grammatically correct in speech. But in my experience, native English speakers would never ask "Why you're laughing," not even in the most informal of situations. For that reason, if you speak like that, you'll sound like a foreigner.

What a native English speaker would do, though—in my part of the United States, at least—is leave out the verb completely, and ask, "Why ya laughin'?" (IPA: /waɪ jə ˈlæfɪ n/) Or, even more likely, they'd ask "Whatcha laughin' at?" /ˈwʌtʃə ˈlæfɪ n æt/ or "Whatcha laughin' about?" /ˈwʌtʃə ˈlæfɪ n əˈbaʊt/.

  • OK, like your comments, so gonna help you out here (to help you make your post even better). – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 14 '19 at 1:28
  • 1) you must xyz in standard English. [and let's face it, no-one must do anything language-wise. Anybody can do whatever they want to do! This isn't a moral enterprise!] 2) Unless the wh-word occurs within the subject of a sentence. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 14 '19 at 1:31
  • 1
    3) Standard English allows intonation questions. "You really think it looks fine?" - But these are only closed yes/no questions, not open Wh-questions. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 14 '19 at 1:41
-3

As pointed out by Edwin, this is a form of English known as African American Vernacular English. That's not to say it is wrong, but that it can only be informally used.

The meaning is there, but the sentence "Why you're laughing" is equivalent to "Why you are laughing", which is wrong, formally speaking.

  • Can you give an example in context of an AAVE speaker using this pattern? – Mitch Nov 13 '19 at 12:04
  • @Mitch not very sure what you mean, but I know a few AAVE examples. For instance the famous meme "watcha talkin bout Willis" which shows one aspect of AAVE, which is that ending syllables or verbs like is/are are often omitted for simplicity – QuIcKmAtHs Nov 13 '19 at 12:16
  • 3
    AAVE (and Southern US English) completely drops to be; it’s not that the word order changes. See linguistics.stackexchange.com/q/143 – Laurel Nov 13 '19 at 13:00

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.