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Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 5:33 pm
Hi everybody! I have a new colleague. We've known each other for a few weeks. We usually talk to each other on our lunchbreak. I notice he has a big scar on his left arm. Do the following sentences sound natural in this context?
1. Why do you have that big scar? If I may ask.
2. Do you mind me asking why you got the big scar?
3. If I may ask, what is the story behind that big scar?
Your answers will be greatly appreciated.
Re: Big scar
Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2021 6:14 pm
To my mind, the central issue here is not linguistic so much as the need to tread cautiously and with sensitivity. I say this because you've described it as a big scar. This implies that the circumstances that gave rise to it were probably traumatic, whether through accident, self-harm or attack by a third party. For that reason your colleague would most likely not want to be reminded of them.
If it was me, I would try to restrain my curiosity and either wait for my colleague to spontaneously say something about it, or subtly steer the topic of conversation to a related area, like an accident I once had in childhood, in the hope that this might prompt him to explain why he had the scar.
If he did not volunteer that information in either scenario, I would conclude that he did not want to talk about it. I would not then press the issue: it would presumably not be essential for me to satisfy my curiosity, and might well be painful for my colleague.
Being unwillingly obliged to respond to a direct question might therefore have a generally negative effect on my colleague's attitude or feelings towards me.
Anyway, that is the context which all of your prospective formulations ought, in my view, to take into account.
Re: Big scar
Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 4:00 pm
Erik : Thanks a lot for your opinion. It is really useful. Have a good day.