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I have come across the following:

Person A: We made A LOT of money.
Person B: What's a lot of money out of curiosity?

I am wondering, does ending a question with "out of curiosity" sound natural?

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    But what is a lot of money, out of curiosity? May 31, 2021 at 15:58
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    I'd swap the clauses, since it seems less harsh: "Out of curiosity, what's a lot of money?"
    – RonJohn
    May 31, 2021 at 18:04
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    @RohitPandey mkorostoff.github.io/1-pixel-wealth Jun 1, 2021 at 11:44
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    Normally it's the other way around.
    – Fattie
    Jun 1, 2021 at 18:19
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    Not relevant to the end of the sentence, but "what" instead of "how much" is a little tricky here. It's the kind of thing people would carelessly say out loud but fix if they wrote it down. Jun 2, 2021 at 14:00

3 Answers 3

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I would put a comma between "money" and "out":

"What's a lot of money, out of curiosity?"

It's fairly common usage in British English.

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    +1 It's quite conversational - something more likely said than written. Worth noting that sharing financial information is quite private in the West, generally, and making a show of having a lot of money (particularly with specifics that give away the scale) can be seen as boastful or in poor character. Likewise, asking about someone's finances is also rude and generally inappropriate. Between friends this information might be shared, though, and this is a delicate way of probing while trying to avoid being gauche. The pause between phrases softens the delivery and tone.
    – J...
    May 31, 2021 at 10:36
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    @Fattie, thats a different question.
    – Jodrell
    Jun 2, 2021 at 8:24
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    @J... , the comma is not about softening delivery. It separates the clauses of the sentence, so that it is easier to understand. Making it harder to interpret the questions as, why would I take "a lot of money out of curiosity"? Where is curiosity? It makes the meaning of the question less ambiguous.
    – Jodrell
    Jun 2, 2021 at 8:27
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"Out of curiosity" is a general phrase. It means you aren't asking the question for a special reason. You're simply curious. It's useless in your example -- the sentence would be better without it -- but it sounds natural enough.

A better example than "a lot of money" is asking a salesperson "out of curiosity, how much does that cost?". You're telling them you don't want to buy it -- you simply wonder about the price. Or "out of curiosity, what does your ferret eat?" means you aren't thinking about buying a ferret yourself. It's common in front of questions where asking them would make the person think you wanted to do something, but you don't. "How long do volunteers work, just out of curiosity?" means it sounds as if you might volunteer, but you don't want to. You're just curious.

If an accountant was calculating your taxes and asked "how much did your company make, out of curiosity?", that would be fine. It means they don't need to know the answer for their job.

The English stack exchange has an out-of-curiosity question (but I don't think the examples are as good).

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    I don’t know if the sentence would be better without it, but whatever. May 31, 2021 at 23:23
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    @Fivesideddice My point is that it's just padding. From context we would already assume they're merely curious. Sounding natural is a low bar. "A lot? Like are we talking... I mean, a lot of lot?" sounds natural enough while being pretty bad. Jun 1, 2021 at 1:43
  • It's too small to suggest an edit, but your answer doubles up on punctuation marks in a couple places. If a quotation ends in a question mark, you don't need any other punctuation there (well, mostly). Jun 1, 2021 at 6:40
  • @OwenReynolds It's not "just" padding, it's used to soften the question/acknowledge that it's a rude question (like people are pointing out on another answer). Removing that kind of nuance doesn't make the sentence better. Jun 2, 2021 at 13:04
  • @user3067860 Clearly I don't think that. I think those people are wrong. "Is it enough to get that new truck you wanted?" softens it by showing a valid reason to ask. Telling them you have no reason to want to know besides curiosity makes it more rude. "It's none of my business, but," softens it a little by acknowledging it's possibly rude and giving them an out. Jun 2, 2021 at 14:40
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It's a little bit odd, though the meaning is clear enough.

More likely someone would say "Just out of curiosity how much is 'a lot of money'?", possibly shortened to "Just out of curiosity, how much is 'a lot'?" or even just "How much is 'a lot'?"

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    I don't find it odd at all. It's totally natural to me: Canadian
    – gotube
    May 30, 2021 at 21:30
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    Some punctuation would help the written form What's "a lot of money"? Out of curiosity...
    – James K
    May 30, 2021 at 22:04

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