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by any chance

FORMAL
This page is about the conversational phrase by any chance

Meaning

You can add this to a "yes/no" question to make it sound more polite, esp. when asking if somebody has something, likes something, knows something or someone, etc.

For example

  • I decided to ask her out on a date, so I called and said, "Are you free on Saturday night, by any chance?"

  • I'd left my phone in a cafe, so I went back and said, "Has anyone seen a black iPhone, by any chance?"

Note:

1. To make a "wh-" question sound more polite, you can change it to a "yes/no" question and add "by any chance". For example, if you want to know a phone number, and you think that asking "What's her number?" sounds impolite, change it to a "yes/no" question ("Do you have her number?") and add "by any chance". The question becomes "Do you have her number, by any chance?", which sounds much more polite than "What's her number?".

2. You should never add "by any chance" to a "wh-" question, such as "Where's the post office?" Saying "Where's the post office, by any chance?" makes no sense, but "Do you know where the post office is, by any chance?" makes perfect sense.

Quick Quiz

To which question can you add "by any chance"?

a. What's the time?

b. Do you have the time?

c. Why do you still wear a watch?

Contributor: Matt Errey