What am I talking to myself here? vs Who are you to judge me?



I encountered two sentences in a movie.

  1. What am I, talking to myself here?
  2. Who are you to judge me?
  1. Meant You aren't listening to me.

My question:

It looks like both sentences have the same structure, so why does No.1 use v-ing and No.2 use to-verb?


Can we express 1 as What am I, to talk to myself here?


Posted 2017-01-23T15:20:41.590

Reputation: 743

2They're not really "the same structure". Note that #1 is syntactically invalid anyway. Ignoring the irrelevant adverbial *here*, it should be *What am I talking about to myself?*, *What am I saying to myself?*, *Why am I talking to myself?*, or similar. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2017-01-23T15:35:21.187

3What am I . . . talking to myself here? is common in speech, and means What am I [doing], talking to myself here? and is used to accuse someone of not listening. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-23T15:51:58.757

2Alternately, it can be parsed as "What, am I talking to myself here?" but the meaning is the same. – stangdon – 2017-01-23T15:53:00.243

@Jim Reynolds: Omitting the word *doing* certainly isn't "common" in my speech (or any of the people I've listened to all my life). stangdon - that would be *What?* or *What!*. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2017-01-23T15:53:53.650

1@FumbleFingers - You've never seen what used as an interjection that way? I've certainly seen it used with a comma, although I can't find an example right now because search engines almost uniformly ignore punctuation. – stangdon – 2017-01-23T17:12:35.977

@stangdon: We're stuck with the fact that interactions on ELL are primarily orthographic. If you're going to arbitrarily assume OP's first example starts with an exclamation despite the lack of any punctuation supporting that reading (not even a capital letter for the next statement), you might as well do the same for the second. *"Some people are obliged to judge others". "Who? Are you to judge me?"* – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2017-01-23T18:18:58.500

@FumbleFingers - You're right, but given that the OP said that he encountered these phrases "in a movie", I assume he heard them and did not see them, and therefore anything we say about punctuation is a guess. – stangdon – 2017-01-23T18:21:20.270

@stangdon: The OP has made no attempt to clarify that aspect of the context (the stress pattern for the first word being an exclamation would be wildly different), so I stand by my closevote. What am I saying [to myself] here? I'm saying it's probably a duplicate of The difference between 'TALK' and 'SAY' anyway.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2017-01-23T18:24:59.713

@stangdon Thank you for all of your answers. it helped a lot. In the movie a guy was talking to his friend about a girl, but the friend wasn't trying to listen because the friend was also interested in the same girl. So the guy was saying 'What am i talking to myself here?' From what I heard, there is a short pause between i and talking. – Elaung – 2017-01-23T19:26:39.560

@FumbleFingers Thank you very much for all your answers. They helped a lot. – Elaung – 2017-01-23T19:28:06.963

@Fum Believe it or not, some OPs are not sophisticated users of English. There was enough clarity and context for some of us to understand what was being asked. You simply did not, seems to me. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-24T05:19:49.737

@Jim Reynolds: I certainly don't think random inclusion of exclamations in text presented for deconstruction here is "sophisticated". Particularly when the question text still hasn't been modified to reflect the original vocalisation. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2017-01-24T13:17:53.240

@Fum My point, made impulsively in an unfortunate moment of feeling self-righteous, was that we should not expect clarity or sophistication--past what's reasonably interpretable--from many ELLs. In this case, I think there's no single "good" way to represent the utterance in writing. That it was encountered in a movie suggests it was speech, and it was not hard for me to understand what was very likely heard. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-25T06:29:10.100

@Jim Reynolds: I haven't listened to the actual dialogue, but whether your recent edit is faithful to it or not, it has effectively invalidated both the answers already posted. Originally OP's #1 was either ungrammatical or simply lacked punctuation to identify *What?* as an exclamatory interjection, but now what we have is "deleted" elements What am I [doing?] [Am I] talking to myself] here? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2017-01-25T13:00:29.427

@Fum I believe a Google search on "what am I talking to myself here" illuminates how the utterence is used. There is, at least generally, no interjection. Yes--again--there is a deletion of doing. I suspect that it's an Americanism. The answers so far contain some facts and also miss things, but were not invalidated by my clarifying edit. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-25T18:00:08.833



These are separate and unrelated idiomatic expressions. The first implies the other person isn't paying attention, and can be phrased in various ways:

I feel like I'm talking to myself.

Am I just talking to myself or are you listening?

Oh yeah, you just finish that text while I stand here and talk to myself.

It's most often phrased as the present progressive to indicate an ongoing and immediate action, but it doesn't have to be. The important thing is to use it in a grammatically correct way, and in a context where it makes sense. It is possible to literally "talk to yourself" (which people do all the time) but in this context you want to imply that is not your intention, that you had expected the other person to be listening, but they are not.

The second expression implies that the other person or persons have no right to tell you that you are doing something wrong. Again, many possible phrases:

No one can judge me!

Don't judge me!

Stop judging me!

You have no right to judge me!

And so on. Most often it is expressed in the simple present to indicate a general principle, or a recurring action, but it doesn't have to be.

To answer your other question "What am I to talk to myself here" is not quite right. "Who am I to talk to myself here?" is better. Although I'm not quite sure what it might mean, it is grammatically correct and might make perfect sense in context.

Side note: Some ethnic vernaculars are known to phrase questions where other vernaculars would use statements. "Who am I to talk to myself here?" sounds like it would be one of those.


Posted 2017-01-23T15:20:41.590

Reputation: 85 521

Neither is an idiom. The OP doesn't ask about the meaning of either, but rather about why an -ing form is used in the first, and a full infinitive in the second, if the assumption that they are parallel structures, which they aren't. But this answer does contain some information that readers may find useful. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-25T18:09:11.720

@JimReynolds would it be ok to call them "idiomatic expressions" then? I feel as if both imply more than a simple literal interpretation. – Andrew – 2017-01-25T18:11:35.337

1Compare an expression like it's a piece of cake (meaning it's easy) to these. That is an idiom because we can't interpret the meaning based on assembling the ordinary meanings of the words. The line between what is and isn't an idiom can get blurry in some comparisons, and turn into deep philosophy pretty quickly, I think. But at an ordinary level, the OP's sentences are not idioms because they can be understood by putting together their constituent words. Idiomatic expression is just another name for idioms. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-25T18:34:21.317

1I do see a logic in thinking that #1, for example, is like an idiom. It requires a step in reasoning to understand how such a question really means something like You're not listening to me. But we can see that in many utterences. Have fun can mean lots of different things, for example, depending on context, tone of voice, etc., requiring interpretation and not being "literal" or plain or simple, but we won't think of it as an idiom. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-25T18:42:51.363

The answer has value, I think. I've learned a lot from both reading and writing imperfect answers. Keep going. :) – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-25T18:46:06.073

@JimReynolds I guess I'm interpreting "judge" as in the phrase "stop judging me" which has fairly recent use. Perhaps we can consider it a kind of "slang" instead? And I don't mind being corrected, as I'm not very familiar with linguistic nuance and prefer to give as accurate answers as possible.

– Andrew – 2017-01-25T18:47:25.007

The OP does not submit a question about stop judging. I don't see it as relevant. Nor is it slang, which you can probably glean from looking up a few definitions of slang and contemplating some examples. I don't know, offhand, how to answer the OP's question, myself, by the way. But writing some things we know might be useful to them. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-25T18:58:23.700


Short Answer

1) They do not have the same structure.

2) No, you cannot make that change.

Long Answer

1) The first one is actually supposed to be, "What? Am I talking to myself here?"

It's a yes/no question using the present continuous.

2) The second one is, "Who are you to judge me?"

It's a wh-question using the simple present.

Teacher KSHuang

Posted 2017-01-23T15:20:41.590

Reputation: 3 670

What is your basis for asserting that #1 is "supposed to be" represented like that? It could be, but not necessarily, nor even most likely. I'd say it's more usefully described as a rhetorical question--not intended to be answered--rather than a yes/no question. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-25T18:15:09.590

1@JimReynolds. What you say is not at odds with what I had said. I agree it's both a rhetorical question and a yes/no question: it's a rhetorical yes/no question. – Teacher KSHuang – 2017-01-26T07:51:25.323

1That seems to make sense. – Jim Reynolds – 2017-01-27T17:02:45.713