As far as I know, there is a fixed phrase/idiom for saying what are you doing here? but I have forgotten it.

It is a very formal and polite way of saying that.

What are you doing here? can sound impolite and even rude.

Does anyone know that phrase/idiom?

Edit after Msfolly's answer:

Sorry for not giving a context.

The context I had in mind was like: Suppose you saw your friend near your home and you want to know what he is doing there, so you would ask what are you doing here? (the meaning is literal). But there was a polite alternative to what are you doing here?...

  • Are you thinking of "Can I help you?" This can be a genuine offer to a customer in a shop, or someone approaching a reception desk, but it can also be a polite way of saying "You are not supposed to be here - what do you want?" Jul 16, 2020 at 12:03
  • 1
    You need to give us more context....
    – Lambie
    Jul 16, 2020 at 12:46
  • If the person is a friend, it is not rude. [But is there a polite alternative to]
    – Lambie
    Jul 16, 2020 at 13:45
  • If the friend hadn't been invited and didn't live nearby, you might say in a surprised tone "Hello! Are you coming to see me?" Jul 16, 2020 at 14:09
  • If it's a friend whose habits you know, you might say “This is out of your way!” Jul 17, 2020 at 1:57

2 Answers 2


"What brings you here?" is neutrally phrased and wouldn't be considered impolite in any scenario I can think of. I'd probably use it in a formal situation if I just wanted to know why the other person was there.

  • 1
    To what do you owe the pleasure of being here is what I was looking for.
    – Void
    Sep 26, 2020 at 12:07

I do not know of a fixed phrase, but perhaps you could try one of the following.

  • Can I help you?
  • Have you lost your way?
  • Do you have permission to be here?

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