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I have seen questions like

  • "He went through all that just to go to Columbia?"
    or
  • "That's the Ferrari?"

and I would like to know if they are grammatically correct.
Can you use questions like that in regular speech?
Can you even start a question with "you" or "that"?

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  • "You want what?", "That is whose?" :)
    – F.E.
    Jun 25, 2014 at 2:41
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    You should definitely visit our sister site, ELL, which is a good site for basic English questions. That site might be more helpful to you than EL&U. Thanks. Jun 25, 2014 at 3:57
  • There exists no word that cannot occur in the first position of an English utterance, even the postpositives: “Galore sure is a weird word in English, isn’t it?”
    – tchrist
    Jun 25, 2014 at 4:05

2 Answers 2

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These questions are grammatically correct. In written English, there is nothing wrong with indicating an interrogative solely by putting a question mark at the end. In spoken English, intonation is used for this purpose. There is no requirement that the interrogative mood be clearly expressed in the words used.

You can certainly start a question with "you" or "that". The easiest way is by eliding a word like "do", "did", "are", "is", or "can":

Omitting "do": You really expect to make out in that sardine can?
Omitting "did/does": That help?
Omitting "is": That what you were looking for?
Omitting "are": You sure?

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  • Thanks for answer (really well explained) so the questions "It is car?" and "Is it car?" are both gramatically correct?
    – user82115
    Jun 25, 2014 at 2:49
  • @user82115 Sure. Imagine if I said, "Can you guess what my favorite means of transportation is?", you could respond with either of those. ("It is car?" is awkward, but not incorrect. "It's car?" would be a typical response in idiomatic spoken English.) Jun 25, 2014 at 2:52
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    These are all examples of Conversational Deletion, btw. Jun 25, 2014 at 3:59
  • I feel like there is something horribly wrong with omitting "a" or "by" in "It('/i)s car?" It works either by omitting everything and just saying the noun ("Car?", "Bike?", "Train?") or keeping the connector between the (copula?) "is" and the noun. It might be tense agreement, because you could say "It's cars?" which is fine, but the singular "car" and lack of "a" sticks out. I don't feel that way about other examples of conversational deletion in John's link. Oct 6, 2022 at 10:12
  • I agree. Whatever else you think about "It's car", it's definitely not idiomatic spoken English. Oct 6, 2022 at 15:01
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Spoken language and literature alike have a license with grammar.

Sentence structures can be manipulated, words and phrases elided, all in an attempt to convey the right emotion.

That's the Ferrari? means quite a different thing from the "grammatically correct" Is that a Ferrari?

The latter is essentially a request for information: Yes, or No.

The former, loaded, possibly implies "You call that a Ferrari?" or even, "I don't call that sort of thing a Ferrari" depending on the contextual emotion.

Similarly, it is very difficult to create the kind of "effect" that the sentence

He went through all that just to go to Columbia?

evokes in the listener. Note that this sentence is not a question. It's an exclamation, like Really?, implying something like

"I don't see how going through all that is justified just to go to Columbia, period."

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