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I’ve often heard native speakers not use the auxiliary verb before the question. Could you please explain what the difference is between asking positive questions in these two ways? In what generalized context would you use one and the other? Give me some guidance, please.

  1. Do you really want it?
  2. You really want it?
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2 Answers 2

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I think there are two phenomena at work here. One is simply that you can ask a question simply by giving a declarative sentence a question mark and a questioning tone of voice. "It's six o' clock?" This is most likely the way to explain this example.

It's also true that verbs can be left out in casual speech, especially in less formal contexts, or colloquial dialects. "You up?" "You gonna eat that?" (For that matter, even the subject might be omitted: "Gonna eat that?") This would not be formal usage, though.

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  • We say a rising tone of voice. [you missed be]
    – Lambie
    Apr 8 at 20:07
  • @Lambie Well, the actual pattern of inflection can vary regionally. For US, typically highest at the end, for UK often higher in the middle and falling at the very end. Apr 8 at 20:19
  • Andy, fine. I'm just saying that in the trade (of English teaching), this is called intonation and a rising tone for questions. That is a generic description for this type of question. A question without a question structure {do/does or is/am/are) is typically just a rising intonation. And any other inflection patterns used regionally are not the point...intonation (over the utterance or sentence) and stress on words.
    – Lambie
    Apr 8 at 20:27
  • As far as I'm concerned things are really different when with negative questions. Apr 9 at 11:46
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Questions in English can come from a rising tone at the end of the sentence.

You want to ↗︎go? You saw him ↗︎yesterday?

↗︎= rising intonation

Apart from all things wannas, dunnos, coulda, woulda, everyone of which I will not cover here, one sees in dialogues that the subject and auxiliary are often dropped in questions in colloquial or everday speech patterns when the speakers know the context they are discussing.

[Do you] have a ↗︎minute.
[Have you] seen him ↗︎lately.
[Have you] been working really hard ↗︎this week.
[He] speaks French, ↗︎does he.
[She's] leaving early ↗︎today. [But it has to be clear it's she, he or it.]

In writing these as dialogues, you need the question mark, but in speech you don't, obviously. So, I put them in, but the rising tone is enough to make it a question. There's no real way to represent this rising intonation in writing.

[It's] been raining here for three ↗︎days?
[Have] you got ↗︎milk?
[I] wouldn't tell her, if I were you. [not a question but drops the subject]
[They've] been giving you a ↗︎hard time?

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