I'm having a hard time understanding this (idiomatic expression? maybe?) What does it mean, and why is it constructed like that? Why does the verb come first?

Why is it Boy WAS I.. and not Boy I WAS....

I'm going to provide a few sentences I found online.

Boy, am I glad to see you!

They eat cookies for breakfast and boy is it good!

I once thought all women were the same. Boy, was I wrong!

  • 2
    Alternatives to exclamatory Boy! here include Man!, Wow!, Gosh!, Dang! Fuck!,... Commented Apr 29, 2023 at 10:16

1 Answer 1


When you form a question, you invert the subject and auxiliary verb:

Is it a cat?

For rhetorical purposes you sometimes phrase a statement as a question. The purpose of these rhetorical questions is to engage the listener. You don't expect the listener to answer the question.

This kind of rhetorical question frequently follows a word like "Boy!" which is used as an exclamation (it doesn't mean "young male human"). But other exclamation can also trigger the rhetorical question form:

Gosh, was he a looker!

and even sometimes with no explicit exclamation:

Am I glad to see you!

Note that I don't mark these exclamations with a question mark.

The meaning is the same as the affirmative "I am glad to see you" but the mood is more emphatic.

  • 1
    And here boy is an interjection expressing emphasis. Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 23:20
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    You and OP only use "to be", but this construction allows other auxiliary verbs to be inverted with the subject, too. For example: "Have I got a deal for you!" "Won't that be a funny story!" "Wow, does that stink!" Commented Apr 29, 2023 at 0:28

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