Interrogative Sentences

Interrogative Sentences

An interrogative sentence is one that asks a direct question and ends in a question mark. (Interrogative sentence is another term for question.)

Easy Examples of Interrogative Sentences

  • Eva, have you seen my ball?
  • What is the name for a unit of power?
  • Would you prefer noisy neighbours or nosey neighbours?

Real-Life Examples of Interrogative Sentences

There are three main types of question:

(1) yes/no questions
(2) question-word questions
(3) choice questions.
  • Is it possible to succeed without any act of betrayal? (Film director Jean Renoir)
  • (This is a yes/no question, i.e., the answer is yes or no.)
  • Why are you bored?
  • (This is a question-word question, the answer to which is information.)
  • Do you want salsa dip or cheese dip?
  • (This is a choice question, the answer to which is in the question.)

Why Should I Care about Interrogative Sentences?

Interrogative sentences (i.e., questions) are not responsible for serious errors among native English speakers, who understand how to form the three question types. By far the biggest issue related to interrogative sentences is writers thinking a non-question is a question and using a question mark.
  • I want to know if it's finished? [wrong]
  • I wonder if I'll ever find my torch? [wrong]
  • (These are not questions but statements. They should end in full stops.)
This error typically occurs when the statement contains an indirect question. An indirect question is a direct question embedded inside a statement or another question. Here, the embedded direct questions are "Is it finished?" and "Will I ever find my torch?".

There is an entry on indirect questions.

Rhetorical questions (i.e., ones that are not expected to elicit an answer) can be used to make a point or to introduce a subject.
  • When are you ever settled enough to have kids? (Actor Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • (This is a rhetorical question designed to make a point not to elicit an answer. It's an interesting way of saying "You are never settled enough to have kids.")
  • Is the Loch Ness monster dead?
  • (This is a rhetorical question designed to introduce a subject. Often used as titles, rhetorical questions are designed to pique the audience's interest.)
There is an entry on rhetorical questions.

Key Points

  • Don't use a question mark after a statement that contains an indirect question.
    • I wonder if that's true? [wrong]
    • I need to know whether I'm selected? [wrong]
  • You can use a question as an interesting way to make a point.
    • What's not to like?
  • You can use a question as an interesting way to introduce an idea.
    • Were some of moon-landing photos faked?
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