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I would like to know how to ask someone about something without accusing them.

If I want to know if someone at work has used my computer, can I ask "Have you used my computer?", without insulting them?

I don't know if they have used my computer and I just want to ask.

I know that if I were to say: "Have you been using my computer?" it sounds like I think the person has indeed used my computer and I am not happy about it, but that is not what I mean.

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    This is a matter of opinion, so there is no single answer. Also, exactly the same sentence can express completely different meanings based on how it's said (the tone of voice). – Jason Bassford Nov 21 '19 at 0:57
  • @Jason Bassford Supports Monica Could you give an example of these completely different meanings, please? – anouk Nov 21 '19 at 18:47
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    Shouting: "Hey you! Have you used my computer?". Asking inquisitively: "I was just wondering—have you used my computer?" – Jason Bassford Nov 21 '19 at 19:11
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I think your best approach is to try to avoid asking "have you used my computer?" You could instead ask, "Do you know if anyone else has been using my computer? I noticed that [describe the reason you believe someone else has been using your computer]." Asking the question this way conveys a little bit more trust-- you're asking the second person if they know something. Because you didn't ask, "have you been using my computer" they do not feel singled out and targeted. Additionally, if you describe the problem well enough, perhaps they can understand what's going on with your computer, perhaps your coworker will know why it is behaving that way, and they can tell you what is happening.

I would like to qualify my answer: Not all people will react the same way to a question! Someone might still take offense, no matter how politely you word your question.

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  • To me "Have you used" sounds completey neutral, but apparently I am wrong. – anouk Nov 12 '19 at 21:40
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    It will depend on who you are speaking with. For some people, that will be neutral. For others, that will sound accusatory. Their reaction will also depend in part on your tone of voice. You can say "Have you used my computer" in a very casual voice, or you can say it in a more aggressive voice. Unfortunately, it is human nature to assume aggression when someone is speaking with some accent, so your tone may be misunderstood through no fault of your own. – NegativeFriction Nov 12 '19 at 21:42
  • Does it make a difference if I say "Have you used" or "Have you been using"? – anouk Nov 12 '19 at 21:44
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    In my opinion, either sentences will have the same tone and meaning as the other. It will not make any difference. – NegativeFriction Nov 12 '19 at 21:45

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