I was watching a detective drama and an officer says to his boss, "what say you, boss?"

Is this the same as "What do you say, boss?"

I know moving the verb forward is the old way of making a question, which is still seen in some other European languages, such as German.

Is "what say you?" still used in English? Is this old-fashioned? Is this still used in daily conversation, or is it used only in movies and dramas?

  • Searching for information on this phrase reminded me that it is traditionally used in a court of law when asking the defendant whether they plead guilty or not guilty, or asking the jury for their verdict. Perhaps for this reason it is still sometimes used in conversation instead of "What do you say?", although it is an old-fashioned usage. See this. Mar 28 at 9:17
  • @KateBunting I thought it was "How say you?", at least when it came to asking the jury for the verdict. I can promise you that they don't say it any more, having retired (this month) from the UK justice system. Mar 28 at 9:40
  • @MichaelHarvey - I'm sure you're right. Some references picked up by Google Ngrams did have "What say you?" in a legal context, though. Mar 28 at 10:51
  • @KateBunting - I think "What say you?' might be an American usage in a legal context, as this example 'On the charges of first-degree murder, what say you?' - blog here - seems to suggest (British law does not have 'degrees' of murder). In general it is an archaic form used jocularly (e.g. 'I rather fancy a turn around the garden, Miss Bennett. What say you to that idea?' which probably seemed odd any time after about 1930. Mar 28 at 11:48

1 Answer 1


"What say you" is an archaic English phrase that is still used in certain legal contexts, but also sometimes found in everyday use, perhaps in imitation of the legal use. It is used to ask for a verdict or a vote, so it is more than just asking what someone thinks or has to say on a matter, it implies that they have a right to the say.

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