I noticed that in writing I very often phrase questions in the following manner:

  • Is there a setting for the time delay [in the app]?
  • Is there a reference to Colonial influence in Australia [in a book]?
  • Is there a shorter way to say this [a stated sentence]?

I am suspicious this phrasing is influenced by my non-English-native background. Are there "more native" ways to write these kind of questions?

If there are distinct British English and American English phrases, I'm more after the British English versions.

Many thanks for any pointers!

  • If you say this differently, there would be no difference here at all in AmE and BrE.
    – Lambie
    Mar 29, 2023 at 13:08

3 Answers 3


These questions seem fine to me, they are neutrally expressed. They are better than the literal equivalent "Does ... exist?"

There would be other sentences that have a different meaning but could be used instead. For example, you might rephrase these as "can" sentences

Can you find a reference to Colonial Australia?

Can I say this more succinctly?

Or ask if something is possible

Am I able to set the time delay using this app?

Different questions - and the best way to ask if the setting exists is still

Is there a setting for the time delay?


There's nothing particularly wrong with your phrasing. However, many literal-minded people will simply answer "yes" or "no". If your intent is to get more details when the answer is "yes", it may be better to ask that specifically:

Where is the setting for the time delay? -or- How do I set the time delay?

What does the book say about the colonial influence in Australia?

What's a shorter way to say this?


Broadly, no… there is no better style for "Is there..." questions in general.

However, that says nothing at all about this, that or another specific Question.

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