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What does the phrase "Oh won't you bring me all the things I need" from the song mean? And what is the grammar behind it? The verse is:

Oh won't you bring me all the things I need
Like falling rain to a rolling sea
Oh won't you bring me all the things I need

(T. Odell, "I know")

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Grammar

The grammar can be broken down this way:

Oh / you / will not bring / (to) me / all the things (that) I need?

Oh - interjection, expressing intense emotion, in this case, desire.

you - subject

will not bring - verb

me - indirect object

all the things that I need - direct object phrase

It is phrased as a question, and as a longing, for the person to do something. When someone asks a question like "Will you not...." it is meant to goad the other person into action, and as @Astralbee has pointed out, to remind the other person that he/she is currently not doing that.

Meaning

The singer is asking for the person (you) to "bring them all the things that I need" -- meaning take care of all their wants and needs.

This is a common way of thinking -- that another person can completely satisfy another person, by providing for all of their wants and needs. You see it expressed in fairy tales, romantic movies, and so on. It is not meant literally, but rather as a romantic expression.

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In English, when you ask someone to do something for you, you use will + verb. It is also used to offer to do something for someone.

Pragmatic Usage of will + bare infinitive:

  • Will you open the window?

  • I'll open the window for you.

  • Will you bring the dessert for the party tonight?

  • She'll bring the dessert for the party tonight.

Now, "won't you" (or another personal pronoun such as he or they), the negative interrogative form of the verb, is used to show that the person asking the question is not sure they will get what they need. There is some doubt regarding the response she or he will get. Or, another way of putting it, for some reason, you think the person you are asking might answer no to a straight out: Will you open the window? So, using won't you is a way of saying: Please consider doing A or B.

  • Won't you open the window? It's so hot in here.

  • Won't you bring me all the things I need? You know I need you to do that.

Please note the tag usage: She will do [she'll] the work, won't she? She won't do the work, will she?

With "won't you", there is an expectation that either the person hasn't done something but you are asking them to do anyway, or there has been doubt about a situation or a previous refusal and there is a "begging" aspect to the question.

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"Oh" is used this way as an exclamation to express strong emotion, adding emotional weight to whatever follows. It isn't so common in everyday speech any more, but you will find it in earlier forms of English, and it is now primarily confined to poetry and lyrics.

Oh won't you bring me all the things I need.

'Won't you', in this context, is a polite way of asking "please will you" (see the Cambridge dictionary definition and examples). So this is a request, in poetic form, asking someone to bring them all the things they need.

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  • Thanks! Is the meaning of this phrase close in emotion to the expression "Oh, if you only brought me all the things I need ..."?
    – Cocoruzzy
    Jul 7 at 13:50
  • @Cocoruzzy That is probably a better example of a lament - I've updated my answer slightly, as I feel on reflection it is probably more optimistic and hopeful
    – Astralbee
    Jul 7 at 14:14
  • "That is probably a better example of a lament" - are you talking about the example from a song or the phrase in the comment?
    – Cocoruzzy
    Jul 7 at 14:57
  • @Cocoruzzy I've revised my answer considerably. I don't feel your example is a lament, I only meant to say that this kind of construction can be, like your example of "oh if only....". See my updated answer, but "won't you" prefixing a statement makes it a polite request.
    – Astralbee
    Jul 7 at 20:30

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