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question mark


question mark

A punctuation symbol (?) written at the end of a sentence or phrase to indicate a direct question.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "How can you come to know yourself? Never by thinking, always by doing. Try to do your duty, and you'll know right away what you amount to."
    (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

  • "You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'"
    (George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah, 1921)

  • "How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?"
    (Charles De Gaulle, President of France, 1958-1969)

  • "Ever tried? Ever failed? No Matter, try again, fail again, fail better."
    (Samuel Beckett)

  • "Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame."
    (Erica Jong)

  • "Question marks . . . have their own vulgarism, an attempt to attribute sarcasm to a word by putting a query in brackets after it: 'We attended a really cultured (?) dinner-party last night, at which the other guests could talk of nothing but film stars and football pools.' This habit should be strangled at birth. . . .

    "There is, however, one other misuse of the question mark that deserves more serious comment, namely its intrusion in indirect questions, such as:
    He asked me why I was so silent?
    This is definitely wrong. The original question mark of 'Why are you so silent?' must give way to a full-stop [period] when the question is converted by 'He asked me' into its indirect form, for the sentence as a whole has now become a statement."
    (C.V. Carey, Mind the Stop. Pelican Books, 1971)

  • "The question mark, used well, may be the most profoundly human form of punctuation. Unlike the other marks, the question mark--except perhaps when used in a rhetorical question--imagines the Other. It envisions communication not as assertive but as interactive, even conversational.

    "The question is the engine of debates and interrogations, of mysteries solved and secrets to be revealed, of conversations between student and teacher, of anticipation and explanation. There are Socratic questions, of course, where the interrogator already knows the answer. But more powerful is the open-ended question, the one that invites the other to act as the expert in telling his own experience."
    (Roy Peter Clark, The Glamour of Grammar. Little, Brown, 2010)

  • "If you shoot at mimes, should you use a silencer?"
    (Steven Wright)

  • "If there are no stupid questions, then what kind of questions do stupid people ask? Do they get smart just in time to ask questions?"
    (Scott Adams)
Also Known As: interrogation point, note of interrogation, question point
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