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Learn English Punctuation: The Question Mark

Updated: Nov 24

Asking her father a question about English homework.

Introduction - Learn English Punctuation

For this article I am going to begin by asking a question.

Why you are doing this?

Why are you doing this?

Yes, I know you can see there are two questions there, but one of them is wrong.

Before I explain which one is the real question, let me say that I’ve seen people using the one that is incorrect, thinking it’s correct.

Ok, by now, I’m hoping you have worked out that the first ‘question’ is not a question at all.

Why? The verb is in the wrong place in the sentence.

The second one, of course, is the correct one.

So, this article is about the question mark; when to, and when not to, use one.

Some people even forget to add a question mark as if they had forgotten they were asking a question. Proof-reading before publishing/posting therefore is essential.

Question words that require a question mark

This quote by Rudyard Kipling, “I keep six honest serving men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.” helps you remember the six important ‘question words’.

The six are here, but there are other ‘question’ words that require a question mark at the end.

  • What - is used for a thing. … What is its name?

  • Who - is used for a person. ...Who is he?

  • Why - is used for a reason. ... Why is he here?

  • When - is used for a time or date. ...When are you coming?

  • Which - is used for a choice. ...Which one do you like?

  • Where - is used for a place. ...Where did you go last week?

  • How - is used to ask about an amount/number/length/adverbs of frequency, or the way to do something. … How did you do that? How much sugar do you have? How many dogs are in the picture? How long is that piece of string? How often do you go to the movies?

And there are many other questions that begin with ‘How’.

Other ‘question words’ include:

Did you do it? Didn’t you know?

Can you do it? Can’t you see?

Are you happy? Aren’t you going?

Were you there? Weren’t you there?

Finally, how about this famous quote from Shakespeare?

“To be or not to be? That is the question.”

In fact, there are many words that are suitable as ‘question words’. You can check if it’s a question you are asking if you want to know something.

Rhetorical questions

A special kind of question is what is called the ‘rhetorical question.

A rhetorical question is one that is asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.

Here are a couple of examples: "How could I be so silly?" or “Why did I go there?” - which are asked merely for effect with no answer expected. The answer may be obvious or given/provided by the person asking the question.


And that’s about all you need to know about questions and question marks. I hope this article has helped you learn this English punctuation mark because it will not only improve your writing – but your reading comprehension and speaking (reading aloud) will become better too!

Finally, if you enjoyed this article, please share it on your socials with your friends. It's easy: just copy the URL and post.

(c) Apex English Tutoring Dec 2020 - Updated Nov 2023

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About the Author

Michael Finemore, MA (Research) CQU, TEFL/TESOL Certificate, an experienced English Teacher, is the Owner-Operator of Apex English Tutoring.

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