Am I right in thinking that "have you seen my new phone?" can be used to ask two things:

  1. I can't find my phone, have you seen it, do you know where it is?

  2. I have bought a new phone and I want to show it to you.

  • 6
    Yes, your cited text can have either of those meanings. Context will normally make it blindingly obvious which meaning is intended - but even without additional context, I'd et money that the presence or absence of the specific word new would disambiguate in the vast majority of usages. (If it's just "lost", you wouldn't normally include "new" - that's for when you want to show off your new toys! :) Oct 29, 2021 at 12:14
  • 2
    'Have you seen the mess that the dog has made on the carpet?' has another implication. Oct 29, 2021 at 13:16
  • 1
    @MichaelHarvey: In my household, the standard "rules of engagement" for dealing with a pet "indiscretion" require that the first person to discover it is the one who should deal with it. So I might go for Have you seen any mess that the dog might have made on the carpet? on the grounds of "plausible deniability" (I haven't actually seen it myself, so I can't know for sure if there's anything that needs to be dealt with! :) Oct 29, 2021 at 14:44

1 Answer 1


Yes, exactly. The difference would be apparent from both context and from emphasis; for the latter:

"Have you seen my (new) phone?" (I already found my old phone.) The "new" would be underemphasized, as it is just clarifying which phone is sought.

Although I would probably instead say "Have you seen my new phone anywhere?" or even "Do you know where my new phone might be?".

"Have you seen my new phone?" (I want you to see it, in part because it is new.)

Other emphases give us other meanings too. "Have you seen my new phone?" (I already showed it to Alice and Bob.)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .