I'm looking for a phrase that describes the situation when someone asks a question in a way to elicit an incorrect response. For example:

Alice: Hey, Bob, have you never done drugs?

Bob: Nope!

Alice: So you have done drugs, then?

Bob: Argh, Alice! You know what I meant. That was such a ___ question!

Or something along those lines. I don't care much whether the word describes the question, or the situation, or maybe it's a verb describing what Alice did.

  • 1
    Trick/twisted/weird/stupid question?
    – NVZ
    Jun 10, 2016 at 19:08
  • 1
    Misleading is my #1 choice for that example. Jun 10, 2016 at 19:11
  • 2
    They are sometimes called questions of the "have you stopped beating your wife" variety.
    – WS2
    Jun 10, 2016 at 19:49
  • 6
    A "gotcha" question might be used informally.
    – blahdiblah
    Jun 10, 2016 at 20:34
  • A loaded question? yourlogicalfallacyis.com/loaded-question
    – Tymric
    Jun 11, 2016 at 2:32

5 Answers 5


A "trick question" is a question where the words are arranged in such a way as to produce an incorrect answer.

Trick questionCambridge

a question that makes you believe you should answer it in a particular way, when the real question is hidden or there is no right answer


If the question is posed in good faith then it's a poorly phrased question (couldn't resist). If the awkward phrasing was intentional and the "wrong" answer is actually the desired outcome, then it's a trick question.

a deceptive question that is intended to make one give an answer that is not correct or that causes difficulty

Deceptive (above) underlines the intentionality of the trick: that was such a deceptive question!

Would you eat a slab of muscular tissue from a corpse? ...No? Well, I guess I'll have this juicy steak all for myself then.

(this trick actually appears in some Heinlein novel featuring Lazarus Long, but I can't remember which).

You can also ask a question in a "correct" way but using loaded language, leading to a loaded question.

A classic example is, I believe, have you stopped beating your wife?.

  • I feel like you have these backwards. "Have you stopped beating your wife?" is more accurately describe as a loaded question, since any (normal) answer implicitly affirms an unsubstantiated assumption, which is the "real" goal of the question. The question doesn't much care what your answer is, and so isn't trying to trick the responder into giving an incorrect response, but rather the point is to trick them into giving any response at all. The steak question is an intentionally deceptive phrasing meant to illicit a mistaken response, which is more what the OP is looking for. Jun 10, 2016 at 23:39
  • I agree with @zibadawatimmy it looks like you have them backwards.
    – Michael Z.
    Jun 11, 2016 at 3:35
  • Yes, I see your point. I've edited my answer.
    – LSerni
    Jun 11, 2016 at 7:13


to persuade (someone) to do something in a clever or deceptive way

to get (something) in a clever or deceptive way

  • How would you use that in the OP's sample sentence? Jun 10, 2016 at 19:18
  • @KristinaLopez I was responding to the last request in the post, "I don't care much whether the word describes the question, or the situation, or maybe it's a verb describing what Alice did."
    – Hseldom
    Jun 10, 2016 at 19:51
  • Gotcha. I was curious...and I'm a fan of that word. :-) Jun 10, 2016 at 20:16

You may also say that Alice was being captious

adjective Intended to entrap or confuse, as in an argument.

It comes for the latin word captios

captiō f (genitive captiōnis); third declension deception, fraud, deceit quibble catch


A Smart-Alecky question:

Definition of Smart-Aleck (via merriam-webster online):

an obnoxiously conceited and self-assertive person with pretensions to smartness or cleverness


some smart aleck in the audience kept shouting clever insults at the nervous speaker

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