There are a number of turns of phrase that I have to avoid as an English person speaking to an American audience. Would it be possible for someone to clarify whether this colloquialism is American-friendly:

Q: Can I buy four candles?

A: Is this what you're after?

I'd speculate that this is an abbreviation of "chasing after", which in itself is a colloquialism for "looking for".

Does this phrase cross the Atlantic? Or even make sense outside of the West Country?

  • I'm a little curious...what "turns of phrase" do you have to avoid with an American audience? And why do you feel you have to avoid them?
    – JLG
    May 17, 2012 at 13:33
  • trousers (pants), pants (underpants), pants (not very good), welly (rubber boot), p*ssed (drunk), 13/1/12 (1/13/12), colour (color), taking the mick out of (making fun of), cheers (thanks), boot (trunk), fag (cigarette), drizzle (half-arsed rain), half-arsed (not very well implemented)...
    – Stu Pegg
    May 17, 2012 at 15:32
  • To answer your second question: To improve ease of understanding.
    – Stu Pegg
    May 17, 2012 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


Yes, this is common in the United States as well. It's colloquial but not improper, and certainly would be understood.


I'd have said it was a feature of a certain social dialect. In shops where I live (not West Country), you're quite likely to hear What was you after? However, the OED has an entry for to be after in the sense of 'To be trying to get or achieve (something)' with no usage comment.

  • Is you saying I talks common? ;)
    – Stu Pegg
    May 17, 2012 at 12:07
  • @StuartPegg: Not at all. I don't make that kind of judgement in discussing language. May 17, 2012 at 12:09

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