I'm not quite sure if the type of questions I'm asking about count as indirect questions, so I apologize if that's what I should have put in the title. Do you need a question mark when you're phrasing something as a question, but it isn't a question? Particularly, questions when, if spoken, would have no upward inflection in your voice at the end. They can either be "you know... right?" or "you do know...?" or even have both. There are three particular types I can think of, so I'll give examples with the three forms of asking I just mentioned. Sorry if this whole jumble of text makes no sense. Anyway, here are the examples.

  1. A question that's really an opinion: Someone says something stupid, so you say, "You know you sound like an idiot, right?"
  2. A question that's stating the obvious: Someone wants to leave, so you say, "You do know there's a door right there?"
  3. A question you know the answer to: Someone is sitting in your chair, and they know it's your chair. They can clearly see there's another chair right next to yours, so you say, "You do know there's another chair right here, right?"

In all of these cases, I either expect no answer, and/or I know the answer. In any (or all) of these situations, should the sentences not end with question marks? Like I said, if you spoke them aloud, you wouldn't have any upward inflection in your voice at the end.

Thanks, and I'm sorry if the format of this post is weird. It's my first time using this website.

EDIT: Ooh, sorry. Just remembered another; I knew I was forgetting something. It's when you know they don't know, basically; you're informing them of something. "You know, that's the fifth time that's happened today?" You're not really asking them if they knew. You're telling them.

  • 1
    I'd put a question mark on most of them, but I'd also say it with an inflection. But you already knew that, didn't you.
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 2:55
  • 1
    More seriously, if I'm writing a story, the question mark indicates there was an inflection as if the statement was in fact a question. Similarly, I'll use exclamation marks to clarify if something was said in an excited manner. Use of both an exclamation mark and a question mark indicates exasperation was evident in the tone. If I'm writing things for a business setting, there's a question mark on every question regardless of inflection, and an exclamation mark on every statement I want to make emphatically. The only multiple punctuation in this setting is the ellipsis...
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 2:59
  • But that's all me, not a real answer.
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 3:00
  • Important question: What is the tone of voice? The question mark represents an inflection which includes several features, but most notably a rising tone at the end. "You don't know that." and "You don't know that?" are pronounced differently.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 3:15

1 Answer 1


The answer is very simple. All the questions you cite are rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are used for effect. The whole point is that no reasonable answer is sought because no reasonable answer is possible.

How many times must we listen to their promises of universal prosperity only to be betrayed once the election is over?

The rhetorical question is called a question because it is cast in the interrogative form.

The examples you give illustrate the use of this device for the purpose of sarcasm.

They are called ‘rhetorical’ because in ancient times orators (‘rhetors’ - in Greek ρήτορες) used them.

  • So you're saying that a rhetorical question should be written with a question mark?
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 8:14
  • @nnnnnn Not necessarily. Punctuation in the sense we understand it was introduced by Aristophanes of Byzantium in the hellenic period (3rd-2nd century BCE. This was a period of major work, following the founding of the library at Alexandria with the purpose of creating authoritative and accurate copies of the great works of drama, history and philosophy from the previous two centuries. These works has been either carelessly miscopied or, in drama, mucked about by eager directors, whether from creativity or to appeal more to the contemporary audiences. (continued).
    – Tuffy
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 8:49
  • @nnnnnn In ancient Greek, you could tell that a sentence was a question because of a cue word like ‘ara’ at the front. There were different words so that you could tell if the speaker thought the answer should be ‘yes’, ‘no’ or was an open request for information. So punctuation was not needed. In English. we signal questions by varying the word order and terminating with a question mark. So though question marks are rarely necessary for our understanding, the expectation is that they are always used. So we can tell that “Surely you don’t mean that.” is a question. But it looks wrong.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 9:05

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