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Is the question mark misused in affirmative sentences?

I often see declarative sentences ending with question marks, like these:

I tried your solution but it didn't work?


This seems to be easy but I'm out of ideas?

, assuming a request like "could you help me please?" or "what to do with it?" but not expressing it explicitly.

Is it standard English grammar?

  • It irritates me more than it should. Maybe I'm offended at educated people who don't use their thinking power yet strut around like they are smarter than you. Jul 30, 2018 at 20:29

3 Answers 3


As Brian says, this is non-standard. It should not be used in formal writing.

You are correct, though, that ending a declaration with a question mark is used to imply a related question. "I'm out of ideas?" is intended to mean "I'm out of ideas, do you have any?" or "I'm out of ideas, can you help?"

"I'm out of ideas?" uses the question mark improperly, since it's reserved for when you actually ask a question, but it would generally be understood by native English speakers.

Definitely refer to the question RegDwight linked: Is the question mark misused in affirmative sentences?

  • Non-standard, or non-formal? I'd say it's reasonably standard, considering I've heard people using this sort of speech for decades. But I'd agree with informal.
    – Hack Saw
    May 5, 2011 at 19:40

No, this is most certainly not standard English grammar. The intention of the question mark at the end of what is clearly a statement is to express the notion that the portion of the statement following the conjunction is unexpected. However, this should be (and is) conveyed by the use of a contravening conjunction (but, however, etc).

Thus, it is not only incorrect but completely unnecessary to conclude statements like the ones in your example with a question mark.

  • 3
    It's definitely not intending to convey that the phrase after the conjunction is unexpected. It's intended, as the asker says, to imply a question: "Do you know why?", "Can you help?" or whatever. It's the same even when there's no conjunction at all, for example: "I'm out of ideas?" That's implicitly asking the addressed person for ideas, not indicating surprise. May 5, 2011 at 18:20
  • @Matthew: What you're saying is that in these examples the sentences are implicit questions (i.e.: Your solution didn't work; do you have another idea I could try?) but that the question mark in standard English grammar is reserved for explicit questions. This would be a good answer; somebody should post it as one? May 5, 2011 at 19:12

I agree with what Matthew Read said in his comment/answer.

I'd like to add another thing that came to my mind, though. Look at the following dialogue:

  1. Did you try to wash it? (just an example)
  2. Of course I did? -or- Yeah?

Here the second speaker is not asking for further ideas, but instead is expressing sarcasm, something like "of course I did, why are you even asking?"

  • I said "ending a declaration with a question mark is used to imply a related question." I don't see how "Of course I did[, why]?" or "Yeah[, why]?" don't fit that. May 5, 2011 at 19:49
  • You said it implied a related question, I was mostly referring to the fact that it expressed sarcasm. My answer wasn't meant to be covering yours, I just wanted to add another point of view, nothing more, nothing less. :)
    – Alenanno
    May 5, 2011 at 20:17
  • OK, understood :) May 5, 2011 at 20:18

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