I'm talking about something like this:

Well then, if you didn't want to get mugged, maybe you shouldn't have been carrying around that big purse in the middle of the city at night?

It's clearly spoken as a question with an upward inflection, and it seems proper to end it with a question mark, but it's less of a question and more of a suggestion/statement. Calling it a "loaded question" doesn't seem correct.

  • 2
    The technical term is an Indirect Impositive. Indirection is a big topic in pragmatics, since one can use any kind of language to achieve some pragmatic effect. Asking a question like Don't you think it would be a good idea if you ... ? is effectively making a request, and may be giving an order if the relative status of the speaker and addressee are appropriate. Plus there are formulas (like the one above) which we immediately identify as requesting/ordering (really "imposing on" -- the term for both is "impositive") , and they can be studied, and have been. Jul 1, 2016 at 13:42
  • @JohnLawler Out of curiosity, why is this a comment and not an answer? The explanation makes sense; although it would be served well by a source link.
    – TonyArra
    Jul 1, 2016 at 18:13
  • 1
    Probably the clearest source would be Georgia Green's Pragmatics and Natural Language Understanding. Jul 1, 2016 at 18:17

1 Answer 1


A rhetorical question

(of a question) asked in order to produce an effect or to make a statement rather than to elicit information: Examples:

  • the general intended his question to be purely rhetorical
  • It might be a rather petulant rhetorical question, or he might just be trying to keep me on the phone.
  • Kyle didn't offer him the time to answer the rather rhetorical question.
  • It was a statement, a rhetorical question, and just by looking at her he was sure that it had made her angry.
  • 1
    Hm...I suppose it technically fits the definition of a rhetorical question. I didn't think of it as one when it's being suggestive, or, as John mentioned, "Don't you think...".
    – TonyArra
    Jul 1, 2016 at 18:12

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