I could not tell if the woman in the exchange pronounced Do or dropped it when she asked the man about his name; I could not hear the word Do at all. For all I know, whoever transcribed the conversation might have added Do. Then it came to mind whether there is any difference in tone/stress between:

  1. Good, strong name. [Do] your friends call you John or Jack?*

  2. Good, strong name. Your friends call you John or Jack?*

The sentence is part of the exchange below from Vertigo 1958.

Thank you But I don't know you, and you don't know me

My name is Madeleine Elster

My name's John Ferguson

Good, strong name. Do your friends call you John or Jack?

Oh, John, mostly

Vertigo 1958


Bold Do was replaced by [Do] between brackets to help improve readability. No intention of adding stress to the sentence.

  • 1
    It is difficult to discuss tone and/or stress in writing :-) Have you put that Do in bold to denote that the stress falls on it or just to help readers notice it? I think @probablyme understood this as the stress, while I think you didn't mean it to be stressed. Please clarify as the answers would depend on that...
    – tum_
    Jun 25, 2016 at 6:08
  • You got it, just to help readers notice. Thanks for the note. I'll try to keep this in mind in future oral English questions.
    – learner
    Jun 26, 2016 at 15:17
  • Thanks for the clarification. Yes, discussing things like this in writing is always difficult. I think you've got your answer already anyway, which is: the spoken English is not as "strict" as the written one. People can and do drop words as long as they are sure they are going to be understood. Dropping "do" from a question is not anyway, which is: the spoken English is not as "strict" as the written. "Vertigo" is a gem, I like the film and I like Kim Novak, who, as I checked just a week ago, is still alive :) (Hope, I won't be banned for this remark ;))
    – tum_
    Jun 26, 2016 at 16:33
  • It was helpful to confirm that Do can be dropped, stress could be added, but because I'm curious I am left with one thing. I hope TRomano is off base when he said he could hear Do elided ;-) Say you don't please! ;-))
    – learner
    Jun 26, 2016 at 16:54
  • 1
    Ok, downloaded and listened to. I do NOT hear any 'do' there. Still, a video from youtube would be better as you could also "read the lips" :)
    – tum_
    Jun 26, 2016 at 17:26

2 Answers 2


With or without the "Do" the sentence can be stressed as the speaker wishes. We can't tell from the written text how it was stressed, but reading it simply:

Your friends call you John or Jack?

would probably have the rising questioning inflection on Jack, no real need for anything else.

The absence of "Do" is pretty strongly implied by

Good, strong name.

This is very sparse, direct speech. Not "That is a good, strong name".

  • 1
    +1 for the remark about sparse, direct speech. Dropping do is permissible, as you say. Your friends call you John or Jack? is perfectly viable in conversation. Though I do hear "D'your friends call you John or Jack?" when I listen to that recording. The [d] followed by the palatal opening of "your" produces an elision of sounds, a sound like [dj].
    – TimR
    Jun 25, 2016 at 23:19

No, there is no [Do] in the conversation. There is a sound where [Do] would be, but I believe she is just inhaling.

Just from reading it (not listening to it), 2. comes off as more casual than 1. I believe that one could ascertain a difference if the sentences were spoken. In this exchange, I would say the two are the same because we can listen to the clip. She asking a simple question and it does not appear that she has any other intention than to find out about his name (what to call him).

However, if you can imagine a different conversation, then the tone could certainly be different. Suppose this John fellow was being interrogated by the police. John might use various aliases. The cop wants to determine who John really is a asks

Do your friends call you John or Jack?

This question can suggest that the cop believes that John's friends call him something other than John or Jack (a third alias).

You could also put the emphasis on "or"

Do your friends call you John or Jack?

This question suggests that the cop believes there are only two possibilities. He wants to know which one is it.

As you can see, the tone is very much different in this scenario.

  • Well, I do not have any problem with the answer but the first example with and without stressed Do. I could not see how that is different from, say, the case when the cop angrily repeats the question to John stalling for time
    – learner
    Jun 25, 2016 at 5:10
  • Sorry, can you rephrase your question. Also, aside from your comments, I am rethinking my answer.
    – Em.
    Jun 25, 2016 at 5:18
  • What do you mean "... really is a asks"?
    – Cardinal
    Jun 25, 2016 at 16:33
  • surely a typo? "who John really is, asks"
    – djna
    Jun 25, 2016 at 21:17
  • @probablyme Suppose John was not straight with the cop, trying not to give direct answers. The cop, yelling at him, could repeat the question. How would the tone of this repeated question be different from the first one in your example. When I first read it I though it could also be a tone for the scenario I just gave. Honestly, it is difficult for me to discuss this even further without help on audio or video. However, I would like to see your comment if you are willing.
    – learner
    Jun 26, 2016 at 17:23

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