These appear interchangeable to me:


With regards to the company's green logo.

Why green

Green was the colour chosen by...

Why green?

Green was the colour chosen by...

Are both options correct? What's the difference?

  • When it's read aloud, do you say it with rising pitch? If so, use a question mark. Otherwise, if you say it with falling pitch, don't, – Greg Lee Feb 16 at 13:04
  • Trying to decide whether a fragment or a more basic string is grammatical normally doesn't appreciate that grammar essentially applies to larger constructs. And when it comes to titles, company logos etc, the proper question is 'How does it look / sound?' Here, I'd say the version with the question mark is better; it looks punchy without being too off-grid. But this is a style choice, not something appropriate for ELU. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 16 at 15:37
  • Headlinese has its own rules. If the contents of the article is explaining why green was chosen, the question mark is not needed. – CJ Dennis Feb 16 at 23:24
  • "Closed. This question is opinion-based. It is not currently accepting answers. " I'm asking whether a construct is gramatically correct. The only way this can be construed as opinion based is if you consider grammar to be opinion based as it lacks a governing body. – Tomas Zubiri Feb 17 at 3:40

There is considerable leeway given to titles, as evidenced by terms such as headlinese. Quite separately, however, “why green” can be parsed as a question, or alternatively, as the introduction to an answer.

As a question, it can be thought of as an ellipsed form of “Why is it green?”

As a non-question, it can be thought of as an ellipsed form of “This is why it is green:”.

They can be distinguished in spoken form by the relatively common convention of raising the pitch at the end of a question and lowering it at the end of a statement.

You asked whether the versions with and without a question mark are equivalent. They aren’t, since the version without a question mark might not be a question. However, since the text is in printed form and since it introduces the answer, there is no practical difference in this case.

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  • 1
    Thanks for the introduction to headlinese. I now recognize this was the influence towards such succinctness. – Tomas Zubiri Feb 17 at 3:49

When to drop it

Dropping a question mark is not something you can do with all questions, some might sound weird. So why can we say "Why drop it: because it's a political issue." but we can't say ""When drop it: when you feel uncomfortable".

In order to drop a question mark, we need to use 2 language tools that separately are evidently useful and accepted.

Implicit words

In language it's commonplace to remove words from a sentence if the context makes them obvious or they have been referenced recently. The full sentences in our examples could be:

Why is our logo green? Why our logo is green.

Why should you drop the question mark? Why you should drop the question mark.

There's advantages I can think of for doing so:

  1. Succinctness: The density of information in a language is an undeniably advantageous trait, shorter languages that carry almost the same meaning are better, we drop words that can be inferred.

  2. Emphasis: Much like with phonetic stress, the speaker/writer can draw attention to a word. 'Why Italy?' instead of "Why are you travelling to Italy?" will yield different answers.

  3. Ambiguety: Removing words allows the asker to avoid polluting the question with their own answer. If someone died and we want to inquire about the timing while we still don't know the cause of death, asking "Why now?" avoids the ambiguety between "Why did this happen now" and "Why would someone do this now?", whether it be to avoid publicizing one's position, or to avoid a biased answer.

Referring to a question.

Suppose that somebody asks 3 questions in a row and we want to refer to one of those, before answering, how would you communicate to them, and perhaps an audience, what question you are about to answer?

"Why are you leaving the country? Why are you traveling to Italy? Why are you doing this now? "The reason why I'm leaving the country is that I'm bored..."

We can remove "The reason" and "is because":

"The reason why I'm leaving the country; I'm bored"

Put together:

Why noun? sounds good: Why (is our logo) green?

Why noun, sounds good: (The reason) why (our logo is) green.

When auxiliary? Sounds ok. When should you (drop it)?

When verb, sounds bad. When (should you) drop it?

When the time verb. Sounds good. When the time( to drop it) comes"

Verb when infinitive (noun). Sounds good. (Knowing) when to drop (it)

The rules regarding which questions can be shortened are not clear to me yet.

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  • Hello, I wanted to ask a question, since I had a hypothesis, I went ahead and posted it, if someone with academic grammar knowledge can edit or comment with concepts that I'm missing, that would be very welcome. Also, if there's anything that you feel is wrong, feel free to downvote and mention it in the comments or in another answer. Thank you. – Tomas Zubiri Feb 16 at 8:24

These appear interchangeable to me:

No. They are not interchangeable. The question mark is necessary. In "Why Green?" a question is being asked.

"Why green" is a shortened form of "Why is [insert subject] green?" , and the question mark is necessary.

Punctuation marks are essential in order to convey the intonation in the voice (and pauses in the speech) of the writer. These carry meaning that must be conveyed.



A: "Why is it green?" - This is a direct question - the question mark signals to the reader that it is to be read in an interrogative manner, i.e. with rising intonation. B: "Because it was the only colour of paint that I had."


A: "What did you say to John when you saw him?"

B: "I asked him why it was green." - There is no question mark as this is not a direct question - it is a simple statement (reported speech) and is not spoken with rising intonation.


The only other time that a "why" sentence requires no question mark is when "why" is an interjection and not an interrogative. (Note that this is not very common in current English):

A: "Try to throw that stone into the hole in the tree. I think that it is impossible."

[B throws the stone and the stone goes in the hole]

A: "Why! I thought that was impossible but you did it!"

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  • Do you use a question mark after "Who knew" (which is clearly a question)? – Greg Lee Feb 16 at 13:08
  • "Why green" is a shortened form of "Why is [insert subject] green?" Check out my answer, I argue that Why green would be a shortened form of the answer "(Here is the reason) why (it's) green (; it's because...)" it would thus be a shortened form of an answer, not a question. – Tomas Zubiri Feb 17 at 3:43

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