I'm looking for examples of phrases & sentences whose meaning changes depending on the tone of voice used.

For example,

'Follow me.' (Said with a falling tone) would be understood as a command.

'Follow me?' (Said with a rising tone) would be understood as a question (ie. do you understand me?)

The longer and more grammatically correct the better!

  • 4
    Voting to close as "not constructive". Virtually any statement can be converted to a question using rising inflection. Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 17:14
  • 1
    Lists of examples are not good questions for his site.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 17:16
  • @Mitch see this question (one of the top voted on the site), and this open question
    – yoozer8
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 17:20
  • Although I must admit the first link there does have the "locked question" disclaimer.
    – yoozer8
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 17:21
  • 1
    @Jim: I was under the impression that, despite those two particular questions (which have come up in meta-discussions), list-like questions are not wanted here. I agree totally with FumbleFingers in that this one is particularly vaguely open-ended.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


Practically all sentences have different meanings, or at least different intrepretations, when spoken with different stress and intonation patterns. Every native speaker realizes this.

Most Garden Path sentences, for instance, while disturbingly difficult to process in written form, pose no troubles at all in speech, because stress and intonation differentiates them effectively. Some examples:

  • The man who hunts ducks out on weekends.
  • The dog that I had really loved bones.

English orthography does not represent stress or intonation in any consistent way, and therefore has to resort to all kinds of artificial and ill-understood subterfuges, like punctuation, to try to represent at least a bit of it. The result is as you see.

  • 1
    And virtually any declarative statement can be made ironically, which reverses its meaning. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 4:42

Won't you forget it?

(normal question tone) Are you sure you will remember?

(angry tone, maybe kind-a question-y depending on the speaker) Drop it!

  • Negated or not, I expect most sentences starting with variants of can, will, etc. toggle between actual query and demand/put-down depending on intonation. Can we leave it at that. (? :) Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 19:26

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