She turned her bleached face to him and gave a small nod. Elizabeth rammed the key into the lock and twisted it back and forth. Dexter looked at the shop-fronts opposite. One of them had a dull red light over the door; its number was painted in numerals as tall as a man.

‘Morty!’ he said. ‘Shouldn’t you be living in a proper house?

‘Oh shutup. You’re worse than Mum.’

Dexter fell back to the edge of the pavement and they went past him into the building. The street door clashed behind them.

explain: "Morty" is Elizabeth's nick name

  1. Does "Shouldn’t you be living in a proper house?" mean "why should you be living in a proper house?"

As an non-native this type of question confuse me.

  1. Does "You are worse than Mum" mean literally and "Mum" here is her Mum?

Source: The Children's Bach by Helen Garner.

  • 1
    You might want to review the usage for negative interrogative sentences: I should do x versus Shouldn't I do x?. 1) is not an accurate explanation.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 14:48
  • 1
    non-native, with a dash.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 16:45
  • 4
    Shouldn't [something happen]? is usually a rhetorical question, intended to convey that the speaker thinks [something] should happen. In this case, speaker thinks addressee should live in a "proper house" (which by implication means speaker doesn't think the place they're entering is a proper house). Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 17:02

1 Answer 1

  1. It means "You should be living in a proper house. Why are you living here?"
  2. It means that his words (advising her to live somewhere else) are even worse than what her Mum says to her. That is, his words are more concerned and worrying than what her Mum says.
  3. Yes, "Mum" is her mother.
  • 1
    It is a polite way to say: You should be living in a proper house.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 15:23
  • @Lambie Thank you for your comment, I thought he is not speaking in polite way and is mocking her. as an nonnative this important details is not very clear to me. although I did not expect negative point but my problem is solved. Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 16:26
  • You should mention that "shouldn't you" and "don't you want to" are expressions used to give advice.
    – David42
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 18:48

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