Question Mark

Effective written communication relies on the proper use of punctuation marks, which can modulate, pause, and provide cadence to the text. Exact and strong writing requires writers to use punctuation with some level of mastery, allowing them to control how readers interpret their writing, whether their aim is to persuade, inspire, or entertain. The proper use of punctuation and mechanics is key for clearness in writing. This page will highlight the significance of question marks in improving a writer’s style and precision when utilized well.

What is the Question Mark?

The punctuation mark that signifies an interrogative tone and is placed at the end of a sentence to imply an inquiry is called a question mark. Similar to other terminal punctuation marks, it should be situated at the conclusion of the sentence. While it may not be utilized as frequently as the period, its significance should not be underestimated. In written communication, the question mark serves a crucial function, allowing the reader to differentiate between a statement and an inquiry. Despite its seemingly simple application, there are still rules that can be difficult to grasp, such as its usage in indirect questions. The objective of this blog post is to provide you with all the essential information about question marks, enabling you to use them effectively in your writing.

Let’s take a look at some examples of question marks in sentences:

  • Isn’t she sending the portfolio over before lunch?
  • Who’s in charge of the documentation for the seminar?
  • They’re not as trained as we thought, are they?
  • Are you guys going out tonight?
  • Have you seen anything remotely similar to this?
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Question Mark Rules

Study the table of rules for the question mark below:

Question WordsWords such as “who,” “when,” “where,” “why,” “what,” “which,” and “how” are commonly used in questions. These words indicate that the sentence is a query and should be followed by a question mark. If you begin a sentence with any of these words, it is likely a question and should be phrased accordingly.
Question TagsIn some instances, statements end in short questions for the purpose of confirming the truth of something or eliciting an answer. These are called question tags or tag questions. For example:

– You didn’t lock the door, did you?
– It’s not as impressive as we thought, is it?
– Trina is dying to get out of here, isn’t she?
Quotation MarksIn American English, question marks go inside quotation marks despite their overall relevance or meaning. However, you may see question marks outside quotation marks if the question applies to the quote’s entirety and not just a phrase within the quote. Both are correct, although the former structure is more prolifically followed. For example:

American English:

– “Where is she?” he asked.
– Haven’t you seen “The Shining?”

British English:

– “Where is she?” he asked.
– Haven’t you seen “The Shining”?
Interrogative Declarative SentencesIn conversational English, some questions are used in the same structure as declarative sentences. Their interrogatory nature is only evident in the rising intonation at the end when spoken. We normally adopt this linguistic approach for emphatic expressions of doubt, surprise, or disbelief.  In writing, however, this rise in voice won’t be apparent without the correct punctuation. In this case, we write them with question marks. For example:

– You arrested her for trespassing? She owns the building!
– Pizza? Of course! I can eat it every day.
– They voted against her? Wow, it’s a new day indeed.
Table of Rules for Question Marks
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Examples of Question Marks in Sentences

  • What do they hope to discover from a third exploration of that isolated island?
  • Luciana asked me yesterday “Do you want to avail of the mid-level package, instead?”
  • “Were they disappointed when you told them we weren’t coming?” I asked.
  • Peeta wasn’t the least bit apologetic for his mistake, was he?
  • Aren’t you in charge of the final animation of Juliana’s short film?
  • Is Melian regretful about the closure of the boutique?
  • “Did Marceo put the equipment in Storage 316 or Storage 613?”
  • “It wasn’t an ambush, was it?” asked the Lieutenant Commander.
  • Vino wondered how they were able to elude the club’s notice. “It isn’t possible, is it?”
  • Who would I see if I wanted permission to change the perimeters of the lab?

Question Mark Exercise with Answers

Exercise on Question Marks

1. We use question marks to end ________

a. an interrogative statement.

b. a query, even when it comes after a sentence.

c. Both a and b

2. Which sentence is CORRECT?

a. Why do fairy tales always start with, “Once upon a time”?

b. Why do fairy tales always start with? “And they lived happily ever after.”

c. Why do fairy tales always start with, “Once upon a time…”?

3. Choose the CORRECT sentence.

a. Who asked, “Do you believe in magic.”?

b. Who asked, “Do you believe in magic?”?

c. Who asked, “Do you believe in magic”?

4. Which sentence uses the question mark CORRECTLY?

a. This decision was unanimous, but do you think it’s really the right choice?

b. They ordered a bunch of—what do you call them again?—ah, loyalty cards.

c. Both a and b

5. Pick the sentence that applies the question mark in its CORRECT placement.

a. “Where did he go”? she asked angrily.

b. “Where did he go?” she asked angrily.

c. “Where did he go,” she asked angrily?


1. c: Both a and b

2. a: Why do fairy tales always start with, “Once upon a time”?

3. c: Who asked, “Do you believe in magic”?

4. b: They ordered a bunch of—what do you call them again?—ah, loyalty cards

5. b: “Where did she go?” he asked angrily.

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Punctuations List

Here is a list of the most commonly used punctuation marks in the English language:

Common Punctuation Marks
Punctuation MarkFunctionExample
Period [.]End simple or neutral sentences and abbreviations.– The performers are in the gazebo eating their lunch.
– Serena is in charge of the souvenir program’s content and layout.
– There aren’t a lot of tourists who know that this place has great aesthetic value.
Question mark [?]End interrogative sentences.– Where do they store all the costumes for the show?
– You’re not sure about it now, are you?
– Didn’t Pierre say the speakeasy is through the alley between the buildings on Jade Esplanade?
Exclamation point [!]End exclamatory sentences or sentences that express strong feelings.– I can’t believe he said that!
– Best vacation ever!
– You look great in that coat!
Semicolon [;] or Comma [,]Connect complete sentences or enumerate items in a list.– This is ridiculous; they can’t charge you for sleeping in your car at the park.
– Harry, Jack, and Willis went to the cabin to make music.
– Kate bought herself some beer; she decided a six-pack is more than adequate.
quotation marks [” “]Signify quotations.– “This is the most amazing cake I’ve ever tasted!”
– “Did you want to have your meal in the garden?” asked the attendant.
– Dead grinned. “I’ll bring it back good as new.”
apostrophe [‘]Show contractions or indicate possessive.– Shannon’s harp was a present from her aunt.
– Don’t you think the decorations in the hall are a bit too much?
– This is the third time Sheila’s friends hung out without her.
Table of Common Punctuation Marks
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Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Question marks are useful in written language to identify questions, which aids reader comprehension. Proper use of question marks involves understanding their rules and how to integrate them into sentences. English learners can develop this skill with practice and attention to detail.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand using exclamation points and the period.

Common Errors Made by English Learners

To avoid common writing errors, English learners should take note of the additional rules on the usage of question marks presented in the table below. Familiarizing oneself with these rules can prove helpful.

Common ErrorsExplanation/Examples
Incorrect Tag QuestionsMany students commit errors in following the patterns for tag questions. It can be confusing but quite simple to follow. Positive questions have negative question tags. And vice versa.


– He’s the mayor, is he?
– You’ve never been here, have you?
– Leah doesn’t know what she’s talking about, doesn’t she?


– He’s the mayor, isn’t he?
– You’ve never been here, haven’t you?
– Leah doesn’t know what she’s talking about, does she?
Indirect QuestionsAnother common error is using question marks with sentences that don’t need them. In fact, question marks are not used with one type of question known as the indirect question, which are questions incorporated into declarative statements. For example:


– The teacher asked if the students wanted to hear a science fiction story?
– My parents wondered why I suddenly decided to change my major?


– The teacher asked if the students wanted to hear a science fiction story.
– My parents wondered why I suddenly decided to change my major.
CapitalizationThe error of not capitalizing the first letter of the first word of the sentence that comes after a question is quite probably out of carelessness. So it’s critical to review your writing and edit accordingly. Let’s take a look:

Incorrect: Are you mad? you shouldn’t think that way.
Correct: Are you mad? You shouldn’t think that way.

Take note that with quotations, the speaker that comes in pronoun form or the verb that follows isn’t typically capitalized. For example:

– “Where is he?” asked Belle.
– “How could you do this?” she screamed.
Table of Common Errors with Question Marks
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices with the Question Mark

Below is a list of useful tips for studying Verbs:

Learning StrategyExplanation
Language ListsGrammar resources like lists, tables, charts, and diagrams contain a lot of information that can be overwhelming. However, selecting resources that suit your learning style and are easily understandable is vital in maximizing their benefits. While these resources shouldn’t replace in-depth learning, they can simplify complicated grammar concepts such as punctuation in a more accessible manner. They present intricate grammar rules in patterns, formats, and regulations, and provide practical sentence examples from real-world contexts that can help enhance vocabulary and sentence-building skills.
Language ExposureAchieving an advanced level of proficiency in the English language requires more than just classroom instruction. It is necessary to dedicate time and effort to independent learning, especially in understanding the multiple contexts in which English punctuation is used. One effective way to do this is by reading academic papers and creative writing and creating personal reference materials by copying and applying the different uses of punctuation to your own writing. To continually improve writing skills, it is important to consistently put in effort and to continue updating your knowledge about punctuation usage.
Language ExchangeImproving writing skills is an ongoing process that necessitates dedication and practice. Although classroom learning provides a foundation, it is not enough to master the art of writing. Independent learning is essential for achieving advanced proficiency, and communicating with peers who have expertise in punctuation usage is an excellent way to expedite this process. Conversing with fellow students who have experience in punctuation usage enables you to receive firsthand instructions and improve your speaking and comprehension abilities. These interactions provide an opportunity to understand how punctuation is used in diverse contexts, making it easier to apply these rules to your own writing. Joining a writing class provides a chance to connect with individuals who share your interests and form friendships. Planning study sessions with classmates, where you can share your writing and complete practice exercises together, can be a pleasurable and advantageous method to refine your writing skills. During these sessions, you can discuss and analyze each other’s work, receive feedback, and learn from each other’s mistakes.
Table of Learning Strategies for Question Marks
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Question Mark Frequently Asked Questions

The punctuation mark known as the question mark has several uses. One is to indicate the end of a direct question or interrogative sentence. Another is to be placed at the end of a sentence that contains a question tag. Additionally, it can also be used to transform a statement into a question in informal writing.

Indirect questions are questions inserted inside statements or other questions. To show them in examples, let’s use a direct question as a basis.

– Ollie likes to read fairy tales.
Take a look at the following indirect questions: 
– Jinny asked what Ollie likes to read.
– Please ask Ollie what he likes to read. 
– Did Ollie tell you what he likes to read?

It may be frowned upon in academic or professional writing, but it is common in informal English and creative writing. Native English speakers often use this approach in speech and use question marks to express it in writing. This type of question shows emphatic expressions of uncertainty or disbelief. Native speakers use it a lot. In some places, the rising intonation at the end of sentences is commonplace.

Informal and creative writing is rife with embellishments. Sometimes, a question mark isn’t enough to fully indicate the emotion behind the question. An interrobang appears as a question mark followed by an exclamation point. This is used to express strong skepticism or shock behind the question being asked. For example:

– She did what?!
– “Are you kidding me?!” Sita yelled.
– Tomas was incredulous. “What are you doing here?!”

There is actually a unique symbol that combines the question mark and the exclamation point into a single unit, but this isn’t popular anymore. It’s worth noting that the interrobang is not a standard punctuation mark and is therefore not required. Using only a question mark is sufficient. 

Rhetorical questions are sometimes defined as half-statements or/and half-questions. In these cases, it’s a stylistic decision whether to use a period or a question mark.

In some situations, tag questions can be implicit, meaning the person asking them already knows the answer. As such, they can punctuate them with a period. If the question mark is applied instead, it implies that the person asking the question wants to hear the person they’re asking to verbalize the answer anyway. 

Honestly, this is more a question of style than a question of grammar. Grammatically, you need to use a question mark for every question you write. It’s the only way that they can make sense or be considered correct. Having too many questions in a text has something to do with preference and not grammar rules. It’s not wrong as it can be read awkwardly. If it’s bothersome, try to change the structure of sentences for more variety, or splice the text into more paragraphs with details that aren’t questions.

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