This is from a cartoon I want my dummy See (3:37-3:40)

Someone's dummy was taken away by someone in the house, so she is looking for it and questioning everyone in the house to find out who has taken it. And when she sees someone, she says:

"Did you take it?"

I wondered why she said "Did you take it", because this is a structure that tries to find whether the person took it or not. It is not a structure that seems to focus on who it was that took the toy.

Instead,I would have expected a question like this:

Is it you who have taken it? or "Was it you who took it?"

These structures seem to focus on the doer of the action, rather than the action itself.

So, my question is: Is it ok to use "Did you take it?" to mean "Was it you who took it"?

2 Answers 2


In spoken English we would rely on word emphasis to distinguish between these meanings.

With the emphasis on you:

Did you take it?

this would be interpreted as "was it you who took it".

With the emphasis on take - or without any particular emphasis - it would be intepreted as asking whether the person had taken it or not.


The construct "did you take it" is appropriate and will be understood by many English speakers if the context suggests "did you take it or did someone else take it". If the context suggests "did you take it or not take it" then many English speakers would think that was the meaning.

  • 2
    The video is 'unavailable' in the UK, but the meaning depends on the tone of voice. No doubt the Princess said "Did you take it?" Jan 5, 2023 at 9:23
  • 1
    Yes, she said "Did YOU take it?" The tone of the voice increased.
    – Yunus
    Jan 5, 2023 at 9:27
  • 1
    @fertilizerspike - I see plenty of relevance. Don't be too eager to fire off flags. Jan 6, 2023 at 6:43

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