I found a meme that says 'I flew in from (wherever) and boy are my arms tired!'. I can understand what's funny about this meme but I can't understand why 'are my arms tired!' is used instead of 'my arms are tired!'. that's not an interrogative sentence, right? why does there have to be an inversion?

  • You are correct. It is a declarative statement. There is no question implied in the phrase.
    – perpetual
    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:02
  • 7
    To the extent that it's an "interrogative", it's a rhetorical question (with the "built-in" answer Yes, your arms are definitely tired!) Apr 8, 2021 at 11:06
  • @FumbleFingers You need to make this <s>an</s> the answer.
    – Greybeard
    Apr 8, 2021 at 17:12
  • @Greybeard: I knew there was another more appropriate term than "interrogative" when I wrote that comment, but I couldn't think what it was. Thanks to Edwin, I now realise "le mot juste" is in fact interjection. But the actual question being asked here isn't really suitable for ELU anyway - it's essentially an ELL-level question. Apr 8, 2021 at 18:00
  • The "mot" in question is "rhetorical".
    – Greybeard
    Apr 8, 2021 at 18:18

4 Answers 4


After a short interjection of amazement / delight / relief / exhaustion, inversion is not uncommon but only with a limited subset of interjections:

This is discussed in an article by [Andersen and Aijmer in The Pragmatics of Society]:

Subject-Auxiliary Inversion (SAI) is one standard index of the exclamative clause type.... This inversion of standard word order instantiates one type of exclamative sentence and is itself a marker of emotional involvement ....

Occasionally, the inversion-form exclamatory appears without an overt interjection:

  • "Am I glad to see you!"
  • "Is he one lucky guy!"

It does appear at first glance to be an interrogative due to the subject-auxiliary inversion. However, in this instance, the closed interrogative (yes/no question) indirectly conveys an exclamatory statement, the implicit meaning being close to that of the positive exclamative:

How tired my arms are!

The understood meaning is that the speaker's arms are very tired.


The intended meaning is "the astonishing degree to which my arms are tired is deserving of the exclamation »boy!«"

  • This is already given in other answers. Please see the help center and tour, and welcome to EL&U.
    – livresque
    Oct 4, 2021 at 21:06

are my arms tired!

This is a rhetorical question. It is emphatic and humorous. Rhetorical questions do not take a question mark.

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