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If I say to my English friends

What have you been doing since you have been here?

(in fact I want to know how they have been occupied) is it impolite? Why? (tense or verb)

How can I say this better?

  • Need more context. This question is perfectly fine in some cases but may come across as too forward in others. – urnonav Jun 4 '18 at 13:29
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Possibly :) There are a lot of subtle differences. As a general rule of thumb, intersperse the sentence with conditionals, use the passive voice and specialize the verb (change "do" to "working on")

passive vs active: active adjectives, ending in –ing, express the idea that someone or something causes a certain effect. Passive adjectives, which end in –ed, express that someone or something experiences this effect.

For example

Impolite

If said aggressively, this could be interpreted as rude and accusatory (probably not from friends, but can be construed this way)

  • What have you been doing since you have been here?
  • What do you do?
  • What on earth have you been doing?
  • What have you been up to?
  • What have you done!!?

Polite

This should be said quietly with a questioning tone so as not to be confrontational. Also, small talk is considered polite before getting straight to the question, such as "how was your journey?"

  • So, tell me (implies curiosity, not accusation), what have you been working on since we last met?
  • Hi, so good to see you, what have you been up to? (balances the accusatory "you" with a nice greeting)
  • Hi, good to see you, what have you been up to since we last met?
  • Hey, what's up, how are you? (implicit way of saying, what has been going on)
  • I can't wait to catch up (very indirect way of saying, what has been going on)
  • Have you been travelling? (again, indirect, not asking specifically but an open question that allows them to say exactly what they have been doing)

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