My husband and I disagree over my use of the phrase "Do you want to ..." when I'm asking him to please do something for me, for example "Do you want to sweep the floor while I do the dishes?" or "Do you want to hand me that Coke?"

To me it's an idiom that carries the meaning of asking him to do me a favor, but he's not familiar with this and it sounds to him like I'm literally asking whether he wants to do the thing. So I'm trying to figure out if this is a real, known idiom, or simply a weird turn of phrase I or my family developed somewhere (it's possible - I'm autistic and my family is pretty unusual).

Is anyone here familiar with this usage?

  • 1
    “Would you please . . “ is conventional and polite.
    – Xanne
    Jun 30, 2021 at 22:23
  • 1
    My grandmother said this. It would not stick out to me at all, but having said that I don't think I've heard it for a while.
    – rchivers
    Jun 30, 2021 at 23:12
  • 4
    Very common indeed in British English. [ However, it can be really annoying when you very specifically don't want to do that thing ;-) ] Jul 1, 2021 at 0:12
  • Also widespread in the US. I agree with @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. that it's annoying in the instance he/she cites, and would likely go further.
    – cruthers
    Jul 1, 2021 at 1:16
  • 1
    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Very true, definitely a British idiom if not an American one as well. If you don't want to do but will do it to please the other person you can say "Not really but I will"
    – BoldBen
    Jul 2, 2021 at 8:51

1 Answer 1


This is a rhetorical device. The intent is to ask the other person to do something, and it would often be rude for them to refuse, phrasing it this way makes it seem less like assigning or ordering them to do it.

As in one of the comments, this wording is often used when the speaker is volunteering to do some other task. The participants in the conversation are often partners, colleagues, etc. and it's normal to divide the tasks. So they're suggesting who should do each task. It would be inappropriate for one to do work while the other does nothing -- the best they can do if they don't want to do the offered task is to suggest swapping roles, e.g.

A: I'll wash the dishes, do you want to dry them?
B: No, I'll wash, you can dry.

This works best when the responder is actually taking on the more bothersome task. This is getting more into the purview of Interpersonal.SE

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