The question mark

Welcome to this quick and simple guide to the use of question marks in the English language. Here we will look at the definition of a question mark, explain what it’s used for, and examine the grammar rules surrounding it. We will also look at how question marks are used in other languages and scripts.

 What is a question mark?

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A question mark is defined as a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence that shows a question is being asked. It can sometimes be referred to as an interrogation point. An old-fashioned and now obsolete term for a question mark is an ‘eroteme’.

A question mark is primarily used in two ways.

  1. To denote a direct interrogatory statement. A direct interrogatory statement will usually (but by no means always) begin with the words who, where, why, how, when, which, would and what.
  • What day is it?
  • Why are you crying?
  • Where do you live?
  • Which one do you like best?

 A direct interrogatory statement can also begin with variations of the verb ‘to be’, such as ‘is’ or ‘are’

  •  Is he coming to the party?
  • Are you going to school today? 
  1. To express doubt or seek to clarify a fact.
  •  Do you think that’s a good idea?
  • Can you explain that to me?
  • Could you tell me a bit more about that?

If writing for a website, the HTML code for a question mark is &#63

The HTML number for an inverted question mark is &#191

The term ‘question mark’ itself can also be used when referring to something that is doubtful or unknown.

There was a question mark over which players would be chosen for the squad.

 A question mark still hung over his ability to do the job well.

For more guidance, see using the question mark.

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