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Position of question mark when sentence doesn't end with question

Take this statement for example:

That's not the question. The question is what was Colonel Mustard doing in the bedroom with the revolver.


That's not the question. The question is what was Colonel Mustard doing in the bedroom with the revolver?


That's not the question. The question is "what was Colonel Mustard doing in the bedroom with the revolver?"

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marked as duplicate by MrHen, kiamlaluno, gbutters, RegDwigнt Apr 20 '11 at 10:45

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Ok, I had not seen that when I did my due diligence. I myself voted to close. – gbutters Apr 19 '11 at 20:51
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'd rather say:

  1. That's not the question. The question is: What was Colonel Mustard doing in the bedroom with the revolver?

  2. That's not the question. The question is, what was Colonel Mustard doing in the bedroom with the revolver?

I used a colon or a comma because you're introducing a question that you are asking. I'll explain better:

  1. If you use quotes, it means someone else said it.
  2. The second one lacks the colon and it looks bad, because you must put a limit between the statement and the following question. I.E. I was wondering do you have a car? As you see, it makes little sense, unless you say "I was wondering, do you have a car?".

The first one might be used, I guess, because indirect interrogatives might be written as statements.

A small edit about this last sentence above: @Cerberus made me notice that indirect questions are such with no inversion. So I was thinking that if someone could add others point of views, it would be nice, in order to make this point clear for me and others once and for all. Native speakers are particularly welcome!

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Both 2 and 3 are OK, but I'd add a comma before "what" in both cases. I'm not sure whether the comma is required in 3, but it certainly is in 2.

The question mark is required in any case.

Quotation marks are a matter of choice: if you want to emphasize that you are really quoting, then use the marks; in this case they don't really seem necessary, as you seem to be quoting yourself and the fact that you are quoting is not very important.

You could use a colon instead of a comma as well, but that'd make the sentence a bit slow and ponderous, in my very subjective opinion.

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I don't agree about the question mark being required in any case. If it's an indirect question, there shouldn't be any question mark, which is used with direct questions. – Alenanno Apr 19 '11 at 18:19
@Alenanno: That is true, but word order makes it clear that this is a direct question. In this example, we have the following: the question is, what was x doing?. An indirect question would be like this: the question is what x was doing. Subject and finite verb switch places only in a direct question. If it were an indirect question, the comma would be unnecessary (or even wrong in some cases?), as you say. – Cerberus Apr 19 '11 at 18:37
Uhm, I guess you have a point. So you say indirect questions with inversion don't exist? – Alenanno Apr 19 '11 at 18:51
@Alenanno: Exactly! It's just not always easy to spot the inversion, because we are used to seeing both constructions used, with the exact same function in nearly the same context; and we can't hear punctuation. – Cerberus Apr 19 '11 at 18:54

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