From "Rick and Morty" S01E02:

Jerry: You wouldn't by any chance have some sort of crazy science thing you would whip up that might help make this dog a little smarter, would you?

While the general idea of this phrase is clear for me, I'm not sure about the exact meaning.

In this scene Jerry requests for a device apparently. So he actually wants to say:

Would you do this for me?

Then why a negation is used here?

Thanks in advance.


  • 2
    Does this answer your question? Negative questions vs positive questions. You will find other discussions on "negative questions" if you type that into the search box. – Weather Vane Mar 23 '20 at 19:09
  • @WeatherVane, yes, it's good. Not sure though what do I do, now when I've received a reply (see below). I mean, I can both approve it or dismiss - just tell me what to do in this case please. – Onkeltem Mar 24 '20 at 0:29
  • @GEdgar, thanks, I'll give it a chance next time :P Actually I was not aware about these options - english/ell. – Onkeltem Mar 24 '20 at 0:31

For me, the wouldn't makes it into a question, and expresses a form of negative expectation.

Do you have a wrench?

Simple question, no expectation implied.

Would you pass me a wrench?

Ambiguous. This could be a hypothetical: "Would you pass me a wrench if I were stranded without a wrench?" In this case, you aren't passing me a wrench right now, and the expectation might be negative, that you might not do it, and I want to know. But, the more usual interpretation is that it is a form of polite request. "Hey, give me a wrench, dude." And, as a form of politeness, the expectation is that you can and will do it. I expect you to pass me the wrench, and I am just being polite. A positive expectation.

You wouldn't pass me a wrench.

This sounds like a statement of negative belief, I don't think you would do so. But if we add a question tag (which takes the negative form of the original), it becomes clearly a request/question.

You wouldn't pass me a wrench, would you?

Here, the expectation is more negative than in "Would you pass me a wrench?". I am asking as a favor. Maybe the wrench is far away, or you are busy doing something else. I have less expectation or right to ask. I am acknowledging that I am imposing in some way. I am being more humble.

On the other hand, this could also be interpreted as a hypothetical. This time, the hypothetical has a positive expectation. An expected answer could be "Yes, that's right, I wouldn't pass you a wrench if you were stranded, because I hate your guts and you know it!"

  • Thanks for the detailed explanation, it's more clear now! – Onkeltem Mar 24 '20 at 0:26

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