I sent a friend a question in the form:

Just trying to remember how we know each other?

That is a "statement" without the question mark at the end. Is there a term for this? Since it does not begin with a "How", "Why", "Where" etc..

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    I think it's called a "question". The question mark is used to indicate that, were the words to be spoken, the intonation would be such that the listener would "hear" a question. (Very crudely, this is a rising pitch near the end of the sentence.) The presence of particular words is not required. – Hot Licks May 14 '15 at 23:39
  • related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/5619/… – amdn May 15 '15 at 1:41

Cambridge calls them statement questions.

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Although it is not a "real" definition, Urban Dictionary calls it a "Question-Statement".


A statement said in the form of a question.

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This is simply a question. However, the meaning behind it and what you're asking becomes very unclear when you add the question mark.

What you're saying is confusing me.
This is a statement. You are telling someone they are confusing you.

What you're saying is confusing me?
The statement is now a question that could be interpreted a few different ways.

  1. You could be questioning whether you're confused. In other words, you don't know if you're confused or not. Ironic, isn't it?
  2. You could just be asking the person to decide if they are confusing you or not.

To apply this to the question you provided, by adding the question mark you are saying you don't know if you're trying to remember how you two know each other. You mostly likely weren't striving to say this.

So in the end, adding the question mark doesn't break the sentence grammatically—it just completely changes what you're trying to say. People who live and breathe correct grammar won't take your question lightly.

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What you're describing is a transcription of a relatively recent phenomenon in spoken English called, colloquially, "uptalk." Oxford Dictionaries, for instance, defines it as "[a]manner of speaking in which declarative sentences are uttered with rising intonation at the end, as if they were questions" (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/american_english/uptalk).

More formally, in linguistic circles, uptalk is known as "HRT," or "high rising terminal."

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  • Why do you call this "relatively recent"? – Hot Licks May 15 '15 at 0:49
  • If they were actually declarative, they wouldn't end with a question mark. Rising intonation at the end of a question is standard, not uptalk. – Dare May 15 '15 at 1:11
  • Though certain forms of uptalk have been around for a very long time--for example, "They're getting divorced?"--the asker's particular form of uptalk seems to me to be more in line with the form of expression to which James Gorman was referring when he coined the term "uptalk" in 1993. His original article is here: nytimes.com/1993/08/15/magazine/on-language-like-uptalk.html. – Marc May 15 '15 at 1:15
  • While it's true that rising intonation is standard for a question, the asker's particular sentence is not phrased as a question. It's a declarative statement ("[I am] Just trying to remember how we know each other"). That's why I called it a transcription of uptalk: the question mark is there to represent the upward shift in intonation that wouldn't otherwise be evident from the sentence as written. – Marc May 15 '15 at 1:20
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    "I sent a friend a question in the form:" I think the whole phrase is actually "Are you just trying to remember how we know each other?" That's a legitimate question. – Dare May 15 '15 at 1:27

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