For example, if someone asked "Why is the sky green?", you would not even be able to answer it because the question itself is wrong (edit: assuming that the sky was in fact blue). Is there a formal name for this kind of phrase/question?

  • 4
    I've seen green sky before, under weird weather conditions.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 24, 2020 at 21:43
  • 1
    Depends on the reason for the question. The person may be joking, they may be color-blind, they may be deluded, they may be trying to confuse you or divert your attention.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 24, 2020 at 21:54
  • 2
    It could be a relatively benign "loaded question," but I think the term is usually used in a sense of rhetorical entrapment. Nov 24, 2020 at 22:00
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    Perhaps something along the lines of "nonsensical" or "incoherent". Wolfgang Pauli famously referred to someone's work as "not even wrong"
    – user888379
    Nov 24, 2020 at 23:04
  • Were they asking about the Earth's sky? There's an aurora, fyi. The question itself could be considered a "red herring"
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 25, 2020 at 14:23

4 Answers 4


Let us assume for the purpose of argument that the sky cannot be green (although as commented, it may be green in some circumstances).

The question is then based on a

false premise = an incorrect proposition that forms the basis of an argument or syllogism. Since the premise (proposition, or assumption) is not correct, the conclusion drawn may be in error. However, the logical validity of an argument is a function of its internal consistency, not the truth value of its premises.


Contemporary examples might be "Why is the world flat?" or the current American president's saying "Why did I win the election?". With careful bias and factual cherry picking, both might be pursued logically for a while but eventually run up against reality and lose validity.

Such questions might therefore be described as false premise questions; I only offer this phrase; I cannot think of a single word that expresses this concept.

  • 17
    The classic is “Have you stopped beating your wife?”
    – Xanne
    Nov 24, 2020 at 23:08
  • 2
    @Xanne Q: Why is the sky green? A: Because you haven't stopped beating your wife.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 25, 2020 at 14:29
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    @Xanne: Mu. Nov 26, 2020 at 7:41
  • While this is an OK answer, in that false premise can indeed be used for this purpose, the quote from the Wikipedia is not really relevant to the answer. In the Wikipedia quote, premise is used in the strict sense of a premise of an argument. On the other hand, in saying that the question about beating one's wife involves a false premise, the word premise has a much looser, informal sense. There is no premise there, in the strict sense in which the word is used in the Wikipedia quote, because there is no argument, in the strict sense.
    – jsw29
    Nov 26, 2020 at 16:39
  • @jsw29 Is this praise with faint damns or damns with faint praise? Before writing my answer I took the view that such questions are the start of an argument (meaning the development of an idea based on proposition, not simply a disagreement). Such an argument may be developed by one person's reflecting, or by several people questioning and debating. I take no view on the leading question about beating your wife.
    – Anton
    Nov 26, 2020 at 16:50

It can be referred to as a false premise, as it is premised on the idea that the sky is green. It can also be called a loaded question:

A loaded question or complex question is a question that contains a controversial assumption (e.g., a presumption of guilt).[1]

The question contains the assumption that the sky is green.


These are sometimes call Mu questions.

The term derives from Japanese, and is rooted in Zen Buddhism traditions of illogical and rhetorically-impossible word/mind puzzles.


I believe I found the term you are looking for: suggestive question.

According to the Wikipedia article (emphasis mine),

A suggestive question is one that implies that a certain answer should be given in response, or falsely presents a presupposition in the question as accepted fact.

  • 1
    This seems to conflate leading questions with loaded questions
    – Henry
    Nov 25, 2020 at 11:18
  • @Henry I think you're right.
    – hb20007
    Nov 25, 2020 at 14:07

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