Politicians seem incapable of giving a straight answer when posed simple questions, sometimes because the question being asked simply cannot be dignified by a one word answer, other times because they are trying desperately to avoid revealing an ulterior motive or cock-up. But what do you call this kind of question?

For example:

Q: Is my t-shirt white or black? A: White

Q: Theresa, did you know about a reported failed Trident test when you addressed parliament during a debate on the renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent? A: Well, errr, I believe that..... strong and stable....

2 Answers 2


Binary inherently means that there are only two options available (bi = two)

From the OED:


  1. Relating to, composed of, or involving two things.
  2. Relating to, using, or denoting a system of numerical notation that has 2 rather than 10 as a base.

A binary question therefore only has 2 possible answers.

There are similar terms for a different amount of answers. Ternary = 3 options to choose from. However, these are very rare. Ternary is only very rarely used; the others even less so.


From context, you seem to mean "a question to which the answers are strictly defined and cannot be vague".
In this context, I would call it a clear-cut question.


  1. Sharply defined; easy to perceive or understand.
    ‘we now had a clear-cut objective’

This doesn't inherently mean that there are two possible answers, but it does mean that the answers are very strictly defined and not up for discussion.

  • It's also commonly called a "binary choice".
    – fixer1234
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 19:52

Perhaps you're looking for a polar question?

In linguistics, a yes–no question, formally known as a polar question, is a question whose expected answer is either "yes" or "no". Formally, they present an exclusive disjunction, a pair of alternatives of which only one is acceptable.

There's lots more interesting info in the Wikipedia article.

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