So if you're an X, you get a free pass on being a Y. Thanks for that.

Is that sentence a question? I would call it a statement, but someone is insisting that it is a question, and gave this reasoning:

"It is a question. It is implied. Sometimes you have to look past punctuation to actual context. There is an implied "Right?" at the end of that. Are you a native English speaker? That seems very basic."

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    Question marks are for writing. In real language there is only intonation. – John Lawler Mar 18 '15 at 17:39
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    This wasn't in real life. The comment was posted by someone on Youtube. – Curious Mar 18 '15 at 17:41
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    The problem is that it might be a question or might not -- without hearing the tone of voice one can't tell. That's why there are question marks -- so you can differentiate when the written words are ambiguous. – Hot Licks Mar 18 '15 at 17:58
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    @JohnLawler is right on. I can read that sentence with a rising tone at the end and it will interpreted as a question. If I read it without that rise then it will be interpreted as a statement. (Consider that I am the teacher in a class and say, "So if you are have better than 75% average you can go on the field trip." vs if I am a student asking, "So if you have better than 75% average you can go on the field trip?" The question mark is there to tell the reader which way to read it. – Jim Mar 18 '15 at 18:01
  • A lot of idiots insist a lot of things in youtube comment threads. The number of times people have claimed their sarcasm was "obvious" is really astounding. – Parthian Shot Mar 25 '15 at 0:46

The sentence you quote is not a question.

It is equivalent to:

So if you score 50% on the test then you have passed, thanks for that.

That's just a statement. Clearly from context the speaker disagrees with the statement; it could be considered that there is an implied "You think that..." at the start, but neither of those turn it into a question. Other similar forms could be questions, for example:

So if you score 50% on the test then you have passed, is that it?

It's the final clause that turns the sentence into a question.


So if you score 50%, have you passed?

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Of course you can ask a question without a question mark. An implied question, for instance, might be:

I would like to know if you're saying that if you're an X then you get a free pass on being a Y. (An accompanying dirty look would make it more emphatic.)


Unless I'm told otherwise, I'm assuming that if you're an X then you get a free pass at being a Y. (A look of self-confidence or even disdain might accompany this one.)

and, in another example

I'm making coffee... (implying the question "Would you like some coffee?")

Then there's this, on a Friday night:

I'm told I make great pancakes...

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  • Those aren't questions. Those are statements. They may be designed to elicit a response if the listener doesn't agree with your statement, but grammatically they aren't actually questions. As you say, they may function semantically as questions though. – Jim Mar 18 '15 at 23:15
  • From a prescriptivist POV, you're right. From a descriptivist POV, it answers the question "Can you ask..." It may depend on what your definition of "ask" is. And I challenge you to tell me who would disagree with "I'm making coffee..." – Canis Lupus Mar 18 '15 at 23:41
  • Hmm, to me, that one was the least "question-like" in my book. If I were a coffee drinker and wanted some, I might reply, "Oh. Would you make me some too?" But clearly I take your statement as a statement and not as a question. – Jim Mar 18 '15 at 23:51

It could be interpreted as a question, but I don't believe one could insist that it is.

Grammatically, you're right. It's not a question. It doesn't exhibit any of the grammar of question construction: there's no subject-verb inversion, no "question word" (how, why, where, etc.), and no question mark. It's an if-then statement, and makes perfect sense as one, even in context.

In spoken English, it could be given the illocutionary force of a question with an upward inflection. I could imagine many readers deciding to interpret it this way. However, if the author intended it to have the force of a question, then I would suggest that the omission of a question mark is misleading.

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