When a character is romantically or sexually attracted to another, they want to be sure that their heart is unattached before forming a serious interest or possibly even ask them out on a date. The question might either be an open enquiry — "Do you have a boyfriend?" — or the fake presumption of a significant other that only waits to be corrected — "Your boyfriend is very lucky" "I don't have a boyfriend". To avoid unnecessary embarrassment, sometimes the character might choose to learn the relationship status through a friend.
In addition, if the love interest turns out to be single, the character might:
- express satisfaction at the fact that they are available — "I'm glad";
- express surprise as a compliment — "That's strange";
- express sympathy if the circumstances are not pleasing — "I'm sorry".
If the love interest turn out to be attached, the character might:
- express disappointment at the fact that they are unavailable — "That's a pity";
- feign lack of interest in order to avoid awkwardness.
This trope reflects Truth in Television, as it is sensible to know someone's relationship status before forming an interest and risking being rejected.
Anime & Manga
- Seitokai Yakuindomo: Aria asks Tsuda if he has a girlfriend (he doesn't). This being Seitokai Yakuindomo, it leads to a masturbation joke.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena: In "The Rose Bride", Utena asks Wakaba if Saionji is going out with Anthy.
- Yuri!!! on Ice: In "Two Yuris?! Drama at Yu-topia", Victor asks Yuri if he likes a girl, but Yuri shies away from answering because Victor is being seductive. Another day, Victor asks him if he has feelings for Minako, and Yuri replies that he hasn't. Then Victor asks him if he has a lover; Yuri says no again. Then Victor asks about ex-lovers; Yuri says "No comment."
- Kashiwagi's relationship with her boyfriend in Kaguya-sama: Love is War was set in motion when she asked him if he had a girlfriend. Spin-Off series We Want to Talk About Kaguya revealed that Karen was trying to invoke this, though she had meant for Maki to be the one to ask him. She knew that Maki had a crush on him and was trying to help her get past the Cannot Spit It Out stage; Kashiwagi didn't know about said crush and innocently offered to help instead. Things pretty much spiraled out of control from there.
- Robin: Stephanie quickly decides she wants to know if Robin has a girlfriend and his hesitance to answer her out of concern for his secret id is a large part of why she still occasionally flirts with him even after he says he does. Eventually he breaks up with his current girlfriend in order to date Stephanie as they get along much better.
Films — Live-Action
- The Holiday: Graham asks Amanda, "You're not married, are you?", to which she replies, "Why? Do I look not married?" He explains that "No. It was just a backwards way of asking if you were married." Amanda clarifies that she's not, Graham says he's not either, and they have a little toast.
- Jurassic Park: Malcolm asks Grant if Dr. Sattler is available. Grant asks why, and Malcolm apologizes, as he realizes she and Grant are together.
- Love Actually: The Prime Minister casually states to Natalie that she would live with her husband or boyfriend and children. Natalie replies that she just split up with her boyfriend and the Prime Minister says he's sorry.
- The Canterville Ghost 1996: Francis remarks that Virginia must miss her friends, her boyfriend especially. She replies that she doesn't really have one. He smiles happily at the new information while exclaiming "What a pity!" and then "I'm surprised!" They eventually agree to meet for dinner.
- The Force Awakens: Finn and Rey escape from the villains at Jakku, but Rey is adamant that she goes back. Finn is confused as to why she would want to return, asking if she has "a boyfriend? A cute boyfriend?" She doesn't, but tells him it's none of his business.
- The Social Network: Dustin asks Mark if a girl in his art history class has a boyfriend. Mark starts to reply that people don't have a sign on them which says whether they have a relationship, but cuts his sentence short when he realizes that he can add such a feature through the relationship status on Facebook.
- You've Got Mail: Kathleen asks her secret correspondent if he's married. He anticipates her reasons and avoids answering to the actual question.
- Prelude to Foundation: Hari Seldon tries to discover if Dors Venabili is in a relationship with Hummin by implying that she knows him well. Dors finds his manner and meddling quite insulting, but reveals that she doesn't know Hummin that way.
- Coupling: In "Flushed," Susan tells Steve that she was trying to chat him up once, but he was with a woman, then she asks if he has seen that woman recently. Since Steve was actually about to have sex with that woman, he improvises a "Define recently?". Susan understands the situation and half backs away.
- Doctor Who:
- Once Upon a Time: In "Skin Deep," Rumplestiltskin asks Belle, after taking her away from her village, if she misses her betrothed. She replies that she doesn't, as it was just an arranged marriage.
- Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: In "Down the Rabbit Hole," Cyrus mentions to Alice her husband during their first meeting, she corrects him, as she's not married, to which he replies "Good."
- In "A Study in Pink," John asks Sherlock if he has a girlfriend or a boyfriend. When Sherlock makes it clear that he's single, John replies, "Right. Okay. You're unattached. Like me. Fine. Good.".
- In "The Blind Banker," Sarah mentions John's girlfriend. He replies that he doesn't have a girlfriend and invites her on a date.
- Voyagers!: In the episode "Bully and Billy", a woman named Rita asks Bogg if he's married.
- In The Sims 4, sims can can this simply by picking the 'ask if single' option under the flirting submenu. Despite its placement this does not count as a flirtatious option in terms of inspiring jealousy, however.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged: In Episode 51, Krillin admits beforehand that it's probably an inappropriate time for this, but he still asks 18 if she's "seeing anyone right now" while they're desperately trying to run away from Cell.
- Buzzfeed: Creepy Ways to Ask if She's Single and its counterpart Awkward Ways to Ask if He's Single.
Andrew: Does a man's beard ever tickle your face?
Ashley: Quick! Name a lady!
- During Glitch Techs season 2, Zahra starts developing feelings for Five. She then asks Miko if she likes him that way.