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Quoting a question at the end of a sentence which is itself a question

Although some might say you can't say a question, only ask it, I assume I can say (write)...

  • He said "What's happening, man?".

so if I want to check if that statement is true, logically, shouldn't I write...

  • Did he just say "What's happening, man?"?

My gut instinct is I can't have two question marks. So I have to ditch the first one, because the fact that the original is a question is less "important" now the "bigger" question has been asked about it.

I can't think of a good example "original" where the presence or absence of the question mark changes the meaning, but I feel there must be utterances that can be read as a question or a statement, dependent solely on the question mark being there or not. So I don't really want to unilaterally abandon the first one just because there's another coming up real soon.

  • @Thursagen: I searched past questions, but didn't find that because I looked for "question mark", and that one doesn't happen to include the word "mark". I'll now see what happens if I vote to close my own question... – FumbleFingers Aug 9 '11 at 1:18

I found an applicable rule in GrammarBook:

When you have a question outside quoted material AND inside quoted material, use only one question mark and place it inside the quotation mark.

Example: Did she say, "May I go?"

So in your case, your instinct to drop one question mark is correct. The sample sentence you gave should be:

He said, "What's happening, man?"

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Taken from rules concerning Question mark usage here:

In the rare case where the question is about a quotation ending in a question, the sentence ends with a single question mark before the quotation mark.

Incorrect: Who said, "Et tu, Bruté?"? (Second question mark redundant) Correct: Who said, "Et tu, Bruté?"

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