In my work, I spend a lot of time speaking with international colleagues from Asia and South America. I am from the United States.

The English regionalisms I notice in these countries can be surprising, and sometimes so frequently used that I find myself tempted to adopt them for the sake of smooth communication.

The example that prompted this question is saying "doubts" instead of "questions or concerns." This subject was discussed several years ago on the English Language & Usage stack here:

'Questions' vs. 'Concerns' vs. 'Doubts'

When speaking with people in South America I often hear:

Let me know if you have any doubts

where I would normally say

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns

Sometimes it seems to me almost as though we are speaking different languages, and I'm tempted to say "If you have any doubts, let me know" for the sake of keeping us on the same level of communication. As someone who loves English (I spend most of my time here on EL&U) I also simply find regional speech fascinating.

But I am worried about the possibility of sounding as though I am either appropriating their linguistic idiosyncracies or mimicking speech in a way that might be offensive.

Would it be offensive to speak to someone internationally and use an English regionalism native to their dialect?

  • 1
    @Catija I mean various South American countries like Argentina and Uruguay. Saying "doubts" is not purely South American, but the linked EL&U question discusses how it is uniquely common in India and some Spanish speaking countries. Dec 4, 2017 at 22:45
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    As to whether this question is too opinion-based, maybe I don't know the criteria on this site well enough. This is a question seeking advice about how to behave in interpersonal situations so it seemed on-topic to me. Dec 4, 2017 at 22:48
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    @Catija fair enough, you can close the question if you wish. It seems to me like many questions here don't have a "correct" answer. // I hear "doubts" all the time as well but not to mean "questions or concerns." It's this specific idiomatic use that seems to be regional. Dec 4, 2017 at 22:53
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    @RaceYouAnytime " It seems to me like many questions here don't have a "correct" answer." I think you're defining "correct" to mean "works well for everyone". That's the source of the issue. There is no absolute solution to resolving interpersonal conflict. You need to address it on a case by case basis. If your question e.g. entailed a specific interaction with a specific person, it would've been much more on topic. It's nigh impossible for anyone to draft a global rule that applies to all future conversations on the topic. It would end with infinite "not for me" comment replies.
    – Flater
    Dec 5, 2017 at 11:28
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    @RaceYouAnytime: Consider the difference between "how do I build cars that work" and "this car isn't working. How do I make it work?". The latter might be solved by a mechanic in under an hour. The former is an educational course spanning several years.
    – Flater
    Dec 5, 2017 at 11:30

2 Answers 2


In India, as you noticed, we "prepone" things, do the "needful", ask "doubts", and ask what's your "good name". But we don't expect westerners to actually use Indianisms.

While it's not offensive per se, I'd consider it unnecessary. Use your own style of English, is what I'd recommend. What would be offensive is if you would "correct" Indians about their words, words that are now well understood or accepted throughout India, although disliked by other speakers of English.

I am, as many here already know, an Indian. I also speak many Indian languages. Cambridge and a few other dictionaries suggest that "do the needful" was originally British but then picked up by Indians.

  • I'm honestly curious; is there a reason why Indians favor "needful"? I've never heard anyone else use the word, especially in a context of "do the needful". Is it something that literally translates to a common Hindi word? Is it a part of the regional English dialect in India?
    – Flater
    Dec 5, 2017 at 11:32
  • Not exactly, but I grew up hearing "do the needful" in place of "do what's necessary". I don't know how exactly or who first made it Indian. It must have originally come from the British.
    – NVZ
    Dec 5, 2017 at 11:38
  • I'm British, Scottish by birth and inclination, Northern English by heritage. I use 'do the needful' because it was part of my language landscape growing up in the 60s/70s. Now that I think about it, it is just possible that my father picked it up at work from Bangladeshi and Gujarati colleagues. but whether it is Indian or English in origin, its isn't unknown here.
    – user9837
    Dec 5, 2017 at 12:10
  • @Spagirl Cambridge and a few other dictionaries suggest that "do the needful" was originally British but then picked up by Indians.
    – NVZ
    Dec 5, 2017 at 14:06

I would say that, if you don't see the other person struggling to understand you, there is no need to adapt to their version of English, they will understand you either way. I would add that you should not try to correct them, either. (I once told a professor "I have a doubt" and he replied out loud, in front of all the class, "no, you have a question" and I'm still angry.)

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