“Steve,” writes Lisa, “whenever I hear ‘Are you done yet?’ I cringe. Why? Is ‘done’ being used incorrectly? It sounds much better to say, ‘Are you finished yet?’ But I’m not sure why.
Good question. Let’s explore it.
Other than the fact that these phrases have some rather negative associations for most men, they do not constitute capital linguistic offenses. They fall more into the category of misdemeanor.
I will admit that the phrase “Are you finished yet?” sounds classier than “Are you done yet?” I suppose this is because the word “finished” is more descriptive in this context than the yeoman “done.” Both versions of these sentences are flawed, however. Why? Because there’s a much better way to express what you’re trying to say.
You see, when you say (or write) “Are you done yet?” you are not being as clear as you could be. The phrase could easily mean, “Have you been sufficiently cooked yet?” which, unless you’re in the habit of carrying on conversations with poultry and halibut, isn’t something you’re ever likely to say anyway.
Similarly, “Are you finished yet?” could mean “Are you washed up, defeated and worthless yet?” If you say that to someone who is, in fact, washed up, defeated and worthless, that person will think you are cruel when you are simply wondering if you can use the toilet stall.
The solution is simple. Instead of saying either “Are you done yet?” or “Are you finished yet?” say this: