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I provide the sentence in context:

[A couple kisses. A friend of them sees the scene and says:]

Oh, are you cute!

This clearly means "you're so cute, sweet" and the like. So, is this sentence a sort of question?

Or, on the contrary, is this a case when subject-verb inversion is applied, so as to give emphasis to the meaning of the sentence?

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Related: english.stackexchange.com/q/12760/13812 – zpletan Apr 21 '12 at 12:17
You might also see english.stackexchange.com/q/64766/13812 – zpletan Apr 21 '12 at 12:18
@zpletan: That "related" is not actually related, since in that case it is an interrogative clause, not an exclamative clause. – Brett Reynolds Apr 21 '12 at 12:22
@BrettReynolds, in the accepted answer, the very similar exclamation, "Boy, do I!" was put as one example of a rhetorical question. See also the other question where the answerers split into two camps on whether a similar statement was a rhetorical question or an exclamation. – zpletan Apr 21 '12 at 12:26
Yes, but this is an error. In the original sentence, it is a question. The person simply doesn't know why they eat so much and is wondering aloud. In boy, do I it's an assertion, expressed exclamatively. The speaker has no doubt that they do. – Brett Reynolds Apr 21 '12 at 12:38
up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's an exclamatory clause, not a question. Other examples:

  • did that ever go well!
  • what a success that was!
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So, similar clauses, where the regular subject-verb order is inverted, are normally used in speech as a means of emphasis, are they? And what about the intonation pattern? Is it the like of that of a regular exclamatory clause? – Giorgiomastrò Apr 21 '12 at 15:49
It's not simply subject-verb inversion. Consider that, for what a success that was, the declarative clause would be that was a success. In other words, the subject and the verb are in the same order. The intonation is falling in both versions with what, how, etc and without. – Brett Reynolds Apr 21 '12 at 15:52
Alright. Then, besides the meaning (in my example, no one would think that the friend is actually asking the couple a question) the falling intonation automatically rules out that it's a question, even a rhetorical one. Thank you for your answers. – Giorgiomastrò Apr 21 '12 at 15:57
Sorry, the comment above should say, "with what and how and without." The other question words don't work the same way in exclamatives. – Brett Reynolds Apr 21 '12 at 16:11

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