I was using the phrase "suit yourself" quite often since the equivalent in my native language it is a legitimate way to express "do whatever you consider the best."

However, when I used this phrase in a dialogue with a person from UK, I was told that it is quite impolite. I goggled the phrase for clarification, but I did not succeed much.

There is an explanation at The free Dictionary which tells nothing about impoliteness at all. On the other hand, there is a discussion on ELU which implies it is impolite. There is also a link to the phrases.org which honestly confuses me.

Is the phrase "suit yourself" considered impolite, or is it sometimes impolite?
Has the phrase changed its tone recently (maybe due to the non-native speakers)?

  • To me, a non-native speaker, this phrase looks suspiciously close to "fuck yourself" (which is offensive). I've just attempted to google for something relevant, but failed. Nevertheless, this may shed some light on the question. – bytebuster Jan 31 '13 at 18:17
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Sure, it can come across as rude, especially when it's uttered bitterly, and it's meant to imply, "Do whatever you want - I don't care."

However, in a more casual context, it's not necessarily rude.

Sales Clerk: "...and that's the main difference between the red widgets, and the blue widgets."
Customer: "Thanks for that information; I'd like to buy two of the red widgets."
Sales Clerk: "Suit yourself."

Even in that snippet, though, I do detect an undercurrent of "That's not the way I would do it, but, if you say so..." So, I suppose something more along the lines of:

Fine by me.

could be considered safer. Still, I woudn't consider "Suit yourself" to be anywhere near as inconsiderate as something more vulgar, such as "I don't give a rat's ass."

  • Would "be my guest" sound a correct reply, in the example you made? – kiamlaluno Jan 31 '13 at 18:12
  • 3
    "Very good sir, will there be anything else?" would be a suitable reply without any implicit judgement. – Jim Jan 31 '13 at 18:48
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno: Good question. I think responses such as "be my guest," "suit yourself," and "have it your way" can be uttered as polite and deferential, or as caustic and sarcastic. As such, you always run a risk of someone misinterpreting your intended message. As jwpat said, sometimes tone helps the listener decide what was meant, and as Barrie said, sometimes the relationship between the parties helps avoid confusion. Any language flexible enough to allow the same phrase to have such disparate meanings will also have a potential for misinterpretation–that's the nature of the beast. – J.R. Jan 31 '13 at 18:55

“Suit yourself” is almost never rude or downright impolite, but depending on tone may come across as snippy, judgemental, or negative. It can be uttered in a perfectly bland, casual manner, meaning “Do what you like” or “Do what you like, I don’t care”; or spoken with a bit more edge, may mean “That’s a stupid idea, but do what you like”. None of these are rude or impolite as such, albeit disrespectful in some cases.

With expressions like this, much depends on the situation, the relationship between the speakers and the intonation with which the expressions are delivered. However, the default interpretation of suit yourself is indeed offensive, and it’s best avoided unless you’re really sure it won’t be taken the wrong way.

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