Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is a question that starts with "What need is there to" grammatically correct?

For example:

What need is there to tell a lie just to make a joke?

If so, is there a difference in meaning or nuance between that clause and "Is there a need to"?

What need is there to tell a lie just to make a joke?

Is there a need to tell a lie just to make a joke?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 0 down vote accepted

What need is there to tell a lie just to make a joke?

I would choose this question if I want the responder to respond with the very detail of the answer. This is not a suitable choice if you do not need to know why somebody is telling a lie just to make a joke.

Is there a need to tell a lie just to make a joke?

This is, in my honestest opinion, a “boolean” question: It can not be answered with detail unless the responder chooses to.

Edit: I would like to add that these may be rhetorical as well, as pointed out by others. Alternative rhetorical statements are:

  • Why are you telling a lie just to make a joke?
  • You shouldn't have told a lie just to make a joke.

These can be used to emphasize that the second person is very, very wrong.

share|improve this answer

Is there a need?: answer yes or no.

What need is there?: an elaborate answer is expected or the question is rhetorical

to make the first sentence in your example rhetorical, I would expect a really

Is there really a need to tell a lie here?

but the example sentences do not roll off my tongue in any case... They do not sound natural

I would say

Was it really necessary to lie just for the fun of it?

share|improve this answer
    
Are you sure the first form can't be rhetorical as well? –  Mr Lister Jan 8 '13 at 8:55
    
Not to my ears. - then you would need something like really... Is there really a need to... –  mplungjan Jan 8 '13 at 8:57

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.