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Learn English Punctuation: The Question Mark

Updated: Feb 21


a father sitting beside young daughter wearing headphones helping write
asking questions


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 right, let me say that I’ve seen people using the one that is incorrect.


They think it’s correct.



So, which one is right? Which one is wrong?



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. (It's easy to do!)


Proof-reading before publishing/posting/submitting/emailing is essential.



Question words that need a question mark


Read 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.


Knowing this helps you remember the six important ‘question words’.


Six Question Words - actually seven!


The six words (plus one more) are here:


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

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


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


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


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


  • Which (the 7th one) - used for a choice. ...Which one do you like?


  • How - used to ask about: (I've put this last because there are many ways to use 'How'.)


an amount:

How much sugar do you have?

       

a number:

How many dogs are in the picture?


length:

How long/short is that piece of string?


adverbs of frequency:

How often do you go to the movies?


the way to do something:

How did you do that?


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


How are you going to explain that?

How good are you? etc., etc.



Other different ‘question words’ include:


Did you do it? Didn’t you know?


Can Jack do it? Can’t they see?


Are we happy? Aren’t your parents going?


Were the children there? Weren’t they 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 the ‘rhetorical question'.


A rhetorical question is one that is asked 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?”


We ask them for effect with no answer expected.


The answer may be obvious or given/provided by the person asking the question.



Conclusion


And that’s about all you need to know about questions and question marks.


In fact, it's been more about question words than the punctuation mark itself.


I hope this article has helped you learn this English punctuation mark.


And you know now when it's used - with question words.


Knowing it will very much improve your English writing.


And your reading comprehension and speaking (reading aloud) will become much better too!





Further Reading



Learning punctuation marks is important for your overall English, and this article explains why they are important - and useful - to learn.





© Apex English Tutoring Dec 2020 - Updated Feb 2024




man in striped long-sleeved shirt talking on a phone.

About Me


Hello and welcome!


My name is Michael Finemore and I am the owner-operator of Apex English Tutoring.


As an experienced English Teacher, I'm passionate about helping people turn their 'poor' English into great English, with easy and effective ways to practice.






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