Punctuation

Question Mark

What do the words “What”, “Why”, “Where”, “How”, “Who” have in common? Yes, these words are complete questions on their own. People use these words to build a question. But most importantly, they all end with a question mark (?) punctuation. Let us learn this in detail.

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Question Mark

The question mark punctuation is probably the most-used punctuation after the full stop or the period punctuation mark. It indicates the interrogative clause or phrase in several languages. As per the rules of English grammar, you should use the question mark to end all direct questions. For instance:

What is your name? Why do you need a calculator? Where are you going? How are you going to solve this equation? Who is the president of India?

Question Mark

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

Rules for Using the Question Mark

Now, let’s look at some rules for using the question mark. Most people use the humble question mark in almost all forms of writing—fiction, non-fiction, reports, academic, or even personal writing. Because of its interrogative significance, sentences ending with a question mark are also called interrogative sentences.

Direct Questions

Let us begin with direct questions. Now, always use the question mark for direct questions. For example:

  • How are you doing?
  • When are you going to submit your report?
  • Where is your office located?

Indirect Questions

Do not use the question mark for indirect questions. Now, what are indirect questions? Complete statements that contain a hint of a question are indirect questions. And you should not use the question mark for such statements. For instance:

  • I wonder if Radhika will come with me to the concert?
  • Now, the use of the question mark in the example above is incorrect. It should be:
  • I wonder if Radhika will come with me to the concert.

Rhetorical and Tag Questions

Moving on, you can also use question marks for rhetoric questions. Rhetoric questions are questions that do not really have an answer or may not require an answer. For instance:

  • Won’t you just give me a break?
  • Wasn’t that rafting experience awesome?

The clue to identify or write a rhetoric question is to check if it has a negative form. This does not really mean that your intent is negative. Your intent may be positive; it is just that the question uses a negative form. The use of question marks for a rhetoric question is not always necessary, but you can use them.

The same logic works for a tag question. Tag questions usually come up in an informal conversation. And you can use the question mark for tag questions. For example:

  • She’s so pretty, isn’t she?

Quotation Marks

Finally, use logic to determine where to place question marks while dealing with quotation marks. If a question is a part of a quote, then put the question mark inside the quotation marks. If the question mark is not a part of the quote, then place it outside the quotation marks. For example:

  • He asked, “Will you come with me to the concert?”

In the example above, the question mark punctuation will come inside the quotes because “Will you come with me to the concert?” is a full question and a part of the quote. Let’s see another example.

  • Do you agree with Henry Ford’s famous quote “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”?

In this example, the question mark will be outside the quotes because the question mark is not the part of the quote. The question here is “Do you agree with Henry Ford’s famous quote?”

The Question Mark as a Comma

Let’s now check out a quirky fact about the question mark. As mentioned earlier, the function of a question mark is to indicate a question. Although the question mark mostly signifies questions, in some rare cases, it can even replace a comma. Let us see an example.

  • “Where did you put Rohan’s book? and where is Rohan, by the way?” asked Neha.

In this example, we have used questions in a sentence. And this mostly happens when we write a dialogue. Now, as per the rules of grammar, you can use the question mark to separate multiple questions within a sentence. This rule is also applicable when smaller phrases or options are used as follow-up questions within a larger question. For instance:

  • Who is responsible for this bridge incident? the municipality? the monsoon? or the pedestrian traffic?

Solved Question For You

Q. Choose the option that best corrects the sentence at the underlined point.

Is the pink scarf yours?

  1. yours,
  2. yours.
  3. No Change
  4. yours!

Solution: C is the correct option.

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