(Around) what time did you get home? Directness vs indirectness

Brave Heart

Senior Member
Japan, Japanese
Hi all,

I have this sentence "What time did you get home last night?", which I believe is a perfectly good English. Now, if I say, "Around what time did you get home last night?", does it sound a bit weird?

I'm asking this question because of the following reason:

When I translated this question into Japanese, I realized something. If I ask this question in Japanese, I would say, like, "Around what time did you get home last night?", which is a literal translation from Japanese to English.

I would add "around" so that the question sounds a little softer. In Japanese, if I ask this question without adding "around", it can sound a little too harsh, as if slightly accusing him/her of his/her coming home late.

I think it is a bit similar to your saying "You are kind of late" instead of "You are late".

So, I'm curious if English-speaking people share (or partially share) this feeling about adding "around" to a question. Do you sometimes feel like adding "around" or something to this kind of question to make it sound a bit softer?

Thanks. :)
  • I think it sounds better if you say "what time did you get home last night?" because it sounds less awkward, and it isn't any "meaner" than "around what time." People still do say "around what time" but I see it happening in certain situations, like the police asking suspects what they were doing at a certain time. If I wanted to ask my friend what time he came home, I'd say "what time did you get home last night?"

    I think in English, the word "around" has a more direct use, it suggests an approximation and nothing more.
    I agree. If my housemate said to me "Around what time did you get home last night?" I'd reply "Why? Did something happen?" I'd think he was asking because maybe he'd heard something outside in the early morning that worried him and he hoped it had been me coming home, not some stranger wandering around the garden.

    I'd have no problem in general with "What time did you get in last night?" It all depends on the tone of voice.

    (Parent to teenager) "What time did YOU get in last night?!" is probably intimidating and angry.

    I've often, however, used it in a jocular manner, or simply as a neutral question, with no overtones either way.