Can it mean either of below depending on the contexts?

  1. It's your own matter. This concerns you most of all! You are the one who should do that!

  2. You are not the exception! You are supposed to do that just like everybody else!

If not, which of them is closer to the title sentence? And could you give me a simpler sentence for the other one please?


Like a lot of phrases, it can be used in many different scenarios. It partly depends on whether the emphasis (or context) focuses on the why, the don't, the you, the do, or the that.

If you say "why don't you do that?", then that is probably something that they should obviously do, but for some unknown reason are not doing. They may have just explained something they want to do, or know they should do.

If you say "why don't you do that?", the meaning is much the same as the first but with the emphasis on the fact they aren't doing it. If the emphasis is on why, you are emphasising that you can't see why they don't do it.

If you say "why don't you do that?", you've probably (both) just seen other people doing something, or talked about other people doing it, and you're encouraging them to do it (or nagging them to do it).

If you say "why don't you do that?", the meaning is similar to the first two cases, but you're emphasising the doing - for instance, they may have talked about something they keep meaning to do, or are planning to do at some unspecified time.

If you say "why don't you do that?" you are probably making a suggestion.

An important point in all cases is that you could be actually asking a question that you want a meaningful answer to, or you could be urging, nagging, encouraging, or obliquely ordering.

Both of your example meanings would probably be with emphasis on you, however. Either of them is plausible. You would tell which it was from context.

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