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If I had a friend who is divorced from his ex-wife, who he has two kids with. He sees the kids once in a while as they are living with the ex-wife. If I hadn't seen him for two weeks and then met with him, what would be natural to ask to know if he's been seeing his kids lately without adding the "lately"? (I hope you understand)

Are any of these natural in the context:

Have you seen your kids?

Have you been seeing your kids?

Did you see your kids?

What would you say? Thank you.

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In this special situation, I think the most idiomatic and culturally appropriate question to ask is simply:

How are the kids?

This phrasing is less intrusive. It does not make any assumptions or convey any expectations about whether or not your friend has had or taken advantage of an opportunity to see his children. It allows him to easily answer in any scenario, and allows him to choose how much information and detail he wants to share. He could answer:

  • Great! I saw them last week...
  • Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to see them lately.
  • They're fine. (For whatever reason, he has chosen not to share further details.)

... and so forth. In many social situations such as this, English speakers (at least American and British) take special care not to ask questions that could be considered intrusive or that might put a person in the uncomfortable position of having to explain things or share details they would rather not divulge. This differs from some other cultures which are more comfortable with more direct conversations.

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  • Last time I saw him we talked about his kids and he told me that he wants to see them more, but haven't because he's been busy with work. So in continuation of that I feel that one of my suggestions would be more natural.Which one of them would be more natural? – writerfadbcl Nov 6 '19 at 15:18
  • @Writefadbcl Then you could say "Did you get to see the kids?" Or "Did you have a chance to see the kids?" Of your specific suggestions the last ("Did you see your kids?") is definitely best, but my suggestions sound a little more natural to my ear. – TypeIA Nov 6 '19 at 17:42

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