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You're a selfish, aren't you?

Is this grammatically correct, and is it how a native speaker would say it? The context is that person A continually acts in a selfish way, and now another person B (a friend or colleague) who has been around him for a long time asks this question in a situation where person A says something selfish.

  • 1
    "you're a shellfish, aren't you?" might be grammatically correct though – user13267 Jun 21 '13 at 15:47
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This is not gramatically correct, no.

"a" implies a noun, e.g. "person," "woman," "worker."

"You are a selfish [type of person]" would work, e.g. "You're a selfish man, aren't you?"

If you do not want to use a noun (because, for example, you don't know what kind of person they are because you are talking over the internet) you can instead write "You're selfish, aren't you?"

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    +1 for accuracy, but as Hellion points out, the noun might have been omitted to imply, but avoid directly using, an expletive. If that were the case, it would be transcribed "You're a selfish * aren't you?", but read out as "You're a selfish (pause) aren't you?" – Matt Jun 21 '13 at 17:21
  • @Matt There's also the possibility that the "a" was just a mistake; on my initial reading I mentally autocorrected it to read "You're selfish, aren't you?" which would be perfectly grammatical and also make sense. – WendiKidd Jun 21 '13 at 20:23
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As already pointed out, it's not grammatically correct.

However, I could see someone saying it in this fashion if they were upset enough to call someone out on their behavior but didn't want to use an explicit insult.

That is, normally the word I would expect following "selfish" would be an epithet such as git, bastard, or bitch. If the speaker didn't want to use such an insulting word directly, they might just leave it out and let it be implied.

  • +1 Often people will say: "You're a selfish so and so, aren't you? – Mari-Lou A Jun 21 '13 at 17:50
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It's not gramatically correct, and I don't think a native speaker would say that, even if it were fixed. It comes across as somewhat rude, but not particularly forceful because of the question. If someone was annoyed enough to call someone out for being selfish, he probably wouldn't phrase it in such a way.

First of all, to fix up the grammar, one would say, "You're selfish, aren't you?" The extra "a" in there is extraneous.

But, as I said before, phrasing this as a question sends mixed signals. You're showing your annoyance by calling someone selfish, but weakening your statement by turning it into a question. In real-life, a person would probably say something like "You're selfish," or "You're being selfish," or "Why are you so selfish?" But he wouldn't put the "aren't you?" part at the end.

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    I disagree with most of this. "You are one selfish motherfucker, aren't you?" is grammatical, natural, rude and forceful. The "a" in the OP's question is clearly wrong, and I am inclined to think the quote is from an utterance in which case there may have been some self-censoring happening to generate it. – horatio Jun 21 '13 at 19:10

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