What is the difference between these two sentences?

Why are you always late.


Why is it that you are always late.

My understanding is that the first sentence is how you ask why more than one person are always late and the second one is how you ask why one person is always late. Is this correct?

2 Answers 2


There is no semantic difference. The second just employs the existential "it" for rhetorical emphasis, as if pondering the nature of reality.


Why did you ask this question?
Why is it that you asked this question?

Why is the sky blue?
Why is it that the sky is blue?

  • Andrew, by "as if pondering the nature of reality" do you mean the person asking the question is "pondering"?
    – AIQ
    Sep 23, 2019 at 20:08
  • 1
    @AIQ yes as if the person is asking an existential and possibly rhetorical question. Eg "Why is it that every time a piece of buttered toast falls to the floor it falls buttered side down?"
    – Andrew
    Sep 23, 2019 at 20:32
  • That makes a lot of sense. That is actually a very interesting distinction, and I had never thought of it like that.
    – AIQ
    Sep 23, 2019 at 20:38

Actually they are both idiomatic ways of saying the same thing.

"You" is both singular and plural, so either of these could be asked of a single person or a group.

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