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In a shop, I heard a person asking to another one Si è tagliato i capelli?

On the first, I took it as a shorter way of asking È andato a tagliarsi i capelli? but then I thought it could have a different meaning. Since those two people meet each other at the shop almost five day per week, and it was evident that person had an hair cut, asking if he did doesn't make sense.

I thought the meaning could be on of the following.

  • The question implies that the hair cut is so bad that he seems that person did it himself

  • The question is asking if that person did it

If somebody asked me Si è tagliato i capelli? should I take it as È andato a tagliarsi i capelli? or asking if I did cut my hair myself, when it's evident my hair is shorter than the week before?

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I'd undoubtedly understand it as È andato a tagliarsi i capelli? If one would ask whether I did it myself, the question would be formed in a more marked way, such as Si è tagliato i capelli da solo? or Se li è tagliati lei, i capelli? (here, as in your examples, people are using the formal lei rather than the informal tu).

As for why one should ask a question whose answer is obvious, this pertains to human psychology and is beyond the scope of this particular website, but it happens very often, and in this case is a colloquial way to express “I noticed you had your hair cut”.

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  • Hmm... I'm not sure I agree with your interpretation. I personally don't think the additional marking is necessary and I perceive the sentence Si è tagliato i capelli as inherently ambiguous – Denis Nardin Oct 16 '18 at 17:35
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Well, I think that the very slight difference depends on the context and on the tone of the question.

If you say Si è tagliato i capelli? with an interrogative tone it could mean È (già) andato a tagliarsi i capelli? so I'm asking if you had the hair cut because I'm not sure you did.

In another situation with a slightly assertive tone you could ask Si è tagliato i capelli? even if you are surely aware the other person has its hair cut but you want him o her confirm that. Think about when talking with a woman and you would like to remark the new hair cut as a compliment.

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