What is a single word used to describe the following question in the following scenario:

John comes in from the supermarket having not brought the jam and his brother says to him:

'Why didn't you get the jam?'

Now, I looked at the definition of a rhetorical question and it is one that doesn't need an answer / an answer is not required; but here, John's brother actually wants an answer even though the answer(s) are obvious - either John forgot, didn't have enough money, or they ran out of jam in the supermarket.

  • 3
    If you have at least three different possible answers, I'd hardly call the answer obvious. Hence the question.
    – Sam
    Oct 22, 2011 at 5:48
  • @Sam: thanks for that, but the point is that the possiblities are so obvious, and the question so trivial, that is suggests that the question is intended to mock or rebuke with no real intent at gathering any valuble information. Some other languages call this 'a question of rebuke' Oct 22, 2011 at 6:52
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    I think "Why didn't you get the jam?" is an ordinary question demanding an explanation. Asking "Didn't you get the jam?" while knowing the answer (but still wanting confirmation/admission of failure) seems like it could be a different category of question, though.
    – user13141
    Oct 22, 2011 at 10:33
  • @nicholasainsworth, Let's say his brother looks at everything in the shopping bag, sees no jam, and then says, 'Didn't you buy jam?' That's an example of a question with an obvious answer, but in that case, the question really means, 'Why didn't you buy the jam?', to which, I think, an answer is required.
    – Sam
    Oct 22, 2011 at 14:02
  • FWIW, a rhetorical question is not "one that doesn't need an answer", rather it is a question asked for rhetorical effect. It is a figure of speech which has as its purpose to make you think, rather than to solicit an answer. When Dr. Phil asks "how's that working out for you?" He is not actually looking for an answer, so much as he is encouraging you to reflect on your life and choices.
    – Fraser Orr
    Oct 22, 2011 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


Sounds like a pointed question, per my Merriam-Webster Unabridged:

pointed, adjective, 2b. made quite unmistakable in meaning, reference, or application : clearly aimed or directed

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