This is not an ethical, moral, or legal question - I'm looking for the language terminology relating to the quoted text of this hypothetical situation (simplified from a real-world one):

Bob gives Alex a monthly allowance. Whenever Alex needs more money or wants something, he will suggest the need and source, without actually asking a question, for example: "Bob, I'm short on money and know you got paid today, so was hoping to get some money early."

A similar question mentions "declarative questions", however in this situation, Alex never sounds like he is asking a question; rather, Alex's statements sound more like instructions or orders in that compliance is expected, and non-compliance is treated as a violation of an agreement that doesn't exist. (I know this is dysfunctional - again, I'm only looking for terminology.)

Is this just "passive voice" or is there a more specific term relating to a person's chronic inability to (or choice not to) make requests / ask direct questions?

Update: It seems "implies", "prompts", or "hints" seem to be the closest terms for this. I'll leave it open for a bit longer.

  • "Leading question" is halfway there: dictionary.com/browse/leading-question
    – Dog Lover
    Jul 23, 2017 at 22:20
  • Describing it as "Brought up the topic" or "raised the issue" or 'raised the question' are terms that might be used to describe similar approaches.
    – Tom22
    Jul 23, 2017 at 22:35
  • 1
    First, this is not passive voice, with or without scare quotes. In the trade, this is called an Indirect Speech Act, where one kind of sentence is used to imply some other kind. There are a variety of indirect speech acts, which are studied and discussed in the part of linguistics called Pragmatics. Jul 24, 2017 at 1:53
  • This is perhaps, more a behavioral communications question than on grammatical terms in the English language. The English language grammarians of old and new did not seem to have seen it necessary to categorize such manner of communications. Simply because it is not a grammatical issue. It is a style of speech pertaining to the behavioural psychology of the speaker. Jul 24, 2017 at 2:02
  • Your first question is intriguing. Your second question, introduced in the last paragraph, is a psychodiagnostic query, which is off-topic for EL&U. Jul 24, 2017 at 2:06

2 Answers 2


This looks like a straightforward case of Alex prompting, or at least attempting to prompt Bob.

From the OED (Login required)

prompt, v. 2a. trans. To incite to action; to move or induce (a person, etc.) to or to do something.

Bob may find this annoying or passive-aggressive, but that is perhaps about the manner of prompting rather than the core action.


As a addtion to 'to prompt', consider 'to hint'

something that you say or do that shows what you think or want, usually in a way that is not direct (Cambridge Dictionary).

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