Will you not open the door?

That could be a request for the listener to open the door. But could it also be a request for the listener not to open the door?

  • I think as written & without inflection from a spoken sentence it could be either a request to open it, or a request to never open it. One cannot absolutely decide which from the text alone. Comments below suggest there may be a cultural bias towards one or the other, but we also don't have a cultural reference, so we cannot say. May 24, 2022 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


The question will be interpreted by English speakers as a politely-framed request for the door to be opened.

More often, people would say: "Won't you (please) open the door?" as "will you not" sounds rather formal.

Anyone who wanted the door to remain shut would usually say: "Please don't open the door" or "Please leave the door shut/closed".

So while the request is capable of being interpreted differently, in practice it is unlikely to be.

  • Thank you so much. But if I said 'Will you not smoke" then the likeliest interpretation would be that I am asking the addressee not to smoke, right?
    – azz
    May 24, 2022 at 7:40
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    I'm sure I have heard people say "Will you not do that?" meaning "Stop doing that" (some irritating repeated action). However, as Ronald says, it's unlikely to be used as a request not to perform a single action. May 24, 2022 at 7:41
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    @KateBunting - I have also heard people say something like 'Will you not open the door?' meaning 'Why haven't you bloody well opened the door yet?' May 24, 2022 at 8:10
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    This may be a US/UK split - in the US, the sentence would be considered a little odd; the only way I think it would naturally be interpreted is like @KateBunting says - an exasperated "Would you NOT do that, please?!"
    – stangdon
    May 24, 2022 at 11:55

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