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Sentence A : You must have met her before, .....(rhetorical form)....?

Question : I really have no idea about rhetorical form in this sentence, and I want to ask what a native English speaker would use as the "rhetorical form" in the sentence above?

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    I believe that the term "rhetorical form" here refers to the use of "tag questions". The use of "must have met" is quite uncommon for tag questions, I imagine that a grammar book might suggest "mustn't you?", while in real life it's more likely that you will hear "haven't you?" from a native speaker. (Or even more likely, she won't say such a question at all.) – Damkerng T. Dec 1 '13 at 6:51
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    @DamkerngT. Since I don't have "mustn't", I'd say "right?" instead. I'd never say "haven't you?" in this context. – snailcar Dec 1 '13 at 7:28
  • Oh, yes. I felt strange myself when I wrote that "haven't you?". "Right?" sounds much better. Thank you! – Damkerng T. Dec 1 '13 at 7:32
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"Mustn't you?" is technically correct, and you may occasionally hear this.

But because the particular form "mustn't you?" is rarely used, people will tend to avoid it and choose something else instead. Americans in particular are more likely to add "right?", and this usage is becoming more common in Britain.

Personally, as a British person, I would sometimes opt for "surely?" instead of "right?" or "mustn't you?". "Must" implies a high degree of confidence, which is re-emphasised by "surely".

But to be more precise:

  • If I was talking to an upper-class or upper-middle-class person, I might use "surely?"
  • If I was talking to someone accustomed to speaking American English, I would use "right?"
  • If I was talking to anyone else, I might not use anything at all, just leaving the question hanging in the air, or I might use "come on!" if my interlocutor implied that they didn't recognise her (although "come on!" could be perceived as rude if I said it to the wrong person), because "surely?" feels a bit too posh. Although, on second thoughts, it is not actually a particularly posh word, so I'm not sure why I feel that way.
  • Mustn't? Surely that's a Britishism? The only time I've ever heard that was from my mother. And in that case, only in the context of no, no, mustn't touch. Actually, Americans would use surely or right? (or no?). Surely is more formal, but it doesn't connote social class in the US. I think that Look, I know you've met her before, OK? would be a better example of informal American speech. – Giambattista Dec 1 '13 at 22:51
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I'd probably express that in one of these ways:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you've met before, right?

Surely you've met before, no?

You've met before, have you not?

You've met before, haven't you?

You must have met before, correct?

You've met before; am I wrong?

Some of these are not necessarily rhetorical, but if the answer is already known, they would be.

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You must have met her before

Is not necessarily rhetorical. One meaning is that it could express either the speaker's rational conviction that the statement "you have met her" is true, or a conjecture.

From the way you two said hello to each other, it seems obvious to me that you must have met her before.

[I'm convinced that you two know each other; or: I'm hypothesizing that this is the case.]

The conversational or rhetorical use of this expresses surprise at someone's claim, or the idea of potential surprise if something is not true:

You must have met her before; you worked in adjacent offices on the same floor for about the same ten years.

This could mean:

  1. Regarding the woman we are discussing, I'm surprised that you claim haven't met her, because it seems so unlikely for the following reason ... (perhaps you simply do not know who I am talking about and the added information I gave will jog your memory).

  2. Regarding the person we are discussing, I would be surprised if you told me you have not met her, which would be unlikely for the following reason ...

Complete conversation (surprised that you don't know her):

A: Did you hear that Jack married Jennifer McDonough?

B: I heard he got married, but who is Jennifer McDonough?

A: Oh come on, you must have met her before; you worked in adjacent offices on the same floor for about the same ten years.

B: Oh that Jennifer , right! I think remember her. Though I'm afraid I never got to know her at all.

(would be surprised if you didn't know her):

A: Did you hear that Jack married Jennifer McDonough? You must have met her before; you worked in adjacent offices on the same floor for about the same ten years.

B: No, ... wait, yes! Jennifer, right, I think remember her. Though I'm afraid I never got to know her at all.

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