I wrote an answer for the question What does the phrase "listen to yourself" mean?. In my answer I mentioned that the question "Do you even listen to yourself?" is both idiomatic and rhetorical. It is indisputable that "Do you even listen to yourself?" is rhetorical, but then there was a comment that it was not idiomatic since it literally asks someone to listen to what they are saying.

Well an idiom is a group of words that mean something entirely different from their literal meaning, like "raining cats and dogs" — to rain heavily.

So I thought "Do you even listen to yourself?" is idiomatic because it indirectly asks the speaker to review/analyze what they are saying, yes they have to literally listen to themselves about what they are saying, but "Do you even listen to yourself?" tries to urge the speaker to consider what they are saying even before they say it, or urges the speaker to not saying anything else that is not suitable/stupid as their previous responses were already not suitable/stupid.

So I wonder, is "Do you even listen to yourself?" idiomatic or have I got it wrong?

  • 4
    Though idiomatic could mean either "natural sounding" or "containing idioms", I normally use idiomatic in the "natural" sense. The word idiom is a bit different, it's about a phrase or an expression that we can get its meaning from its parts (i.e. individual words combined). – Damkerng T. Feb 20 '15 at 17:35
  • 3
    Your question is missing the "even", which is an important part of the phrase. "Do you listen to yourself?" is something you might ask a musician about whether or not he listens to his own music. "Do you EVEN listen to yourself?" is rhetorical and idiomatic (per your definition) since, of course, you are not wondering if the person hears them-self, but if they realize what they are saying. – Kevin Feb 20 '15 at 19:18
  • 1
    @Kevin you are right, I made the change. – NANDAGOPAL Feb 21 '15 at 12:47
  • 3
    Something can be idiomatic without being an idiom or without having a literal meaning. "You're a real lifesaver" is not idiom, nor is it calling the person a rubber ring meant to be thrown into water. – user6951 Feb 21 '15 at 19:17
  • 1
    @MorellaAlmånd on the contrary, both an idiom and idiomatic expression can be defined without reference to another language. In some cases, two languages may share idioms or idiomatic expressions, but you don't need to refer to some other language to call an expression idiomatic or not. Likewise, being idiomatic doesn't mean it is literal or contains an idiom, etc – eques Nov 14 '16 at 16:37

I generally consider "idiomatic" and "idiom" to have approximately the same relationship that Damkerng T's comment suggests: an idiomatic construction is any construction that a native speaker would prefer for a given use, while an idiom is a set and rather quirky phrase or pattern that's unusual enough to identified and talked about by laymen, not just linguists. Conveniently, that's also the dictionary definition.

Basically, yes, the question phrase is idiomatic; it's not really (much of) an idiom, since it's not very odd or exceptional or memorable.

| improve this answer | |

It's not an idiom, because the words do in fact carry their literal meanings, but this question is rhetorical. These kinds of statements are "questions" which have self evident answers. The listener is not expected to attempt to answer the question; rather, it's being used to make the point that something obvious was overlooked or ignored. The use of rhetorical questions is idiomatic, though, meaning that it's a standard way that native speakers construct expressions to convey particular, nuanced meaning.

However, we often use rhetorical questions in a negative way, where the obvious answer is no, often with a negative connotation. That's the case here: do you even listen to yourself? clearly states you obviously don't bother to listen to yourself with the implication and you ought to, because this is utter rubbish.

| improve this answer | |

It's not quite idiomatic, but not in the way the commenter you mentioned says. The problematic aspect is simply your "Do you even...". More idiomatic forms would be:

"Are you even listening to yourself?"


"Can you even hear yourself?"

| improve this answer | |
  • 5
    Actually, I almost always hear the "do you even... " version. – Catija Jul 22 '15 at 17:55
  • 1
    The "Do you even..." version implies that the person you're saying it to frequently says silly things. I've heard it that way quite a lot. – nnnnnn May 18 '16 at 13:04

I would vote for the phrase being an idiom, since it does not literally mean what it says. Rather than its literal meaning, the phrase is used as an expression of incredulity that the speaker could say something so obviously out of line. As such, it might best be paraphrased as "How can you possibly think that?" Since it is a widely-used phrase which has a specific meaning other than its literal meaning, I'll argue for idiom.

Rather like the question in "Full Metal Jacket": "Did you mother have any children who lived?"

| improve this answer | |

It is not indisputable that it's rhetorical. If I ask that question, I am looking for a response. Further, if you think(/don't think) like a Buddhist, it is not idiomatic - the question means what it asks!

Even if your thinking isn't Buddhist-leaning, it seems to me the latter part of your question(s) isn't quite right either. It may urge the speaker to consider, in future, what they say with a more discerning mind, but not necessarily. Nor does it necessarily suggest the speaker cease!

I could stretch it here and say people don't actually have to listen to themselves as the OP suggested. But that's neither here nor there. (Idiomatic much?)

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Please focus on the given question and address it clearly. At the moment, your answer doesn't seem to focus on the question and seems a bit like a rant. You can edit your post to improve it. You can use grammar, definitions, and reputable sources to support your answer. – Em. Nov 9 '18 at 4:21
  • Oh! Oops. Sorry about that. A rant, though? Was that entirely necessary, in order for me to understand what, surely was intended as a kind reminder to a newbie? – MVLs Nov 11 '18 at 17:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.