In the TV series Russian Doll often characters wrongly use the present tense instead of the past tense. Is this a kind of slang? If yes, is it common only in New York?

  1. First episode 15:08 - Lizzy says: "You drink too much?". It does not seem correct because she is not asking if Nadia always drinks too much...
  2. First episode 15:28 - Lizzy says: "Sees a Fellini film once". Because it is sarcastic, it could be acceptable, but it does not seem completely correct.
  3. Episode 5 03:08 - Beatrice says "Someone tell you?" instead of "Did someone tell you?"
  4. Last episode - Horse says: "He chooses you" talking about the cat that chose to go with Nadia. In this case, it could be correct, but it did not sound right.

If I recall correctly Beatrice also says "Someone tells you" when she should have said "Did someone tell you?".

I find strange that I never noticed this same error repeated so many times in other movies or TV series.

  • 6
    Can you give a couple of examples please.
    – Mouvier
    Apr 6, 2019 at 19:17
  • I did not take note. I'll find out... I have to watch the episodes again. For sure Lizzy does it all the time. Apr 6, 2019 at 20:56
  • My take is because she's in a time loop, the slightly incorrect tense plays to an off-kilter effect -- the idea of "the now" is being highlighted, as she is suppose to find her way out 'out of the maze' of her life so to speak. Sometimes we do this thing where it's unclear if something is a statement or question and I think that might be what the first line of dialogue is doing, contesting what the line is. The second one is definitely more "out of time" (or tense), but again it seems like it's contesting a statement vs a question by meshing the 2 would-be sentences together. It's wonky time! Apr 7, 2019 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


You are correct that both examples are not formally correct. What we have here are cases of sentences that would be correct if just a few more words were added. Without these missing words, the sentences are intended to sound informal and conversational.

"You drink too much?" is simply a shortened version of "Did you drink too much?"

"Sees a Fellini film once" is a shortened version of "This guy sees a Fellini film once...", implying that the person being discussed thinks himself an expert based on one limited experience.

And yes, both sentences sound like perfectly credible conversational English for a New Yorker.

  • Thank you for your answer. I asked the question because it is the first time I notice this error and so I was wondering what was the reason. Apr 7, 2019 at 21:15
  • 3
    @Marco It is not an error. Apr 9, 2019 at 1:56

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