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Without the question mark, it is simple...

Can we make it in one hour — as I want to eat my dinner now.

(I like the dash as a clear separator for the question and statement parts of the sentence)

Adding a question mark, it looks wrong to me in all permutations. What should I be doing with this?

Can we make it in one hour as I want to eat my dinner now?
Can we make it in one hour? as I want to eat my dinner now.
Can we make it in one hour — as I want to eat my dinner now?
Can we make it in one hour? — as I want to eat my dinner now.

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The easiest remedy would be: Can we make it in one hour? I want to eat my dinner now. –  J.R. Nov 20 '12 at 17:16

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

This statement would obviously occur only in a non-formal context or as a direct quotation in a formal context. In either case, no formal ‘rule’ applies.

Instead, placement of the question mark should be guided by the actual phonetic contour of the utterance. There will almost certainly be an elevated tone on ‘hour’, which would call for a question mark. There may also be an elevated pitch on ‘dinner now’, if the speaker is requesting rather than demanding time to eat; if so, this would call for a second question mark.

In either case, I would use the dash. It sets off the second clause without detaching it, as capitalizing ‘As’ would.

So either of these:

Can we make it in one hour? — as I want to eat my dinner now.
Can we make it in one hour? — as I want to eat my dinner now?

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Second question mark - are you mad :-? –  Billy Moon Nov 20 '12 at 17:26
    
@BillyMoon Think of it as "Can we postpone? --so I can eat? --please?" There's not just one reading. –  StoneyB Nov 20 '12 at 18:00
    
@StoneyB: FWIW, I like the dual question marks with "so I can eat my dinner now?" but not so much with "as I want to eat my dinner now?" The "as I want" just seems too declaritive, no matter now I try to read it. –  J.R. Nov 20 '12 at 19:12
    
@J.R. I agree; but we weren't invited to rewrite it, so I just treat it as a given quote. Me personally, I'd say "'cause I need" or as you say "so I can". But I don't use "as" much anyway. –  StoneyB Nov 20 '12 at 19:19
    
@StoneyB Yeah, I don't want it re-written, but re-dressed only. I am trying to formulate an opinion on a general rule for this kind of stuff, where the words should not be changed, but the formatting should reveal the meaning that is clear when spoken. I think I agree with the hyphens being retained for the reasons you state. I still find the dual question marks freak me out a bit. –  Billy Moon Nov 20 '12 at 21:13

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