Improve your English: the question mark

question: /ˈkwestʃ(ə)n/ (noun) a sentence or phrase that asks for information


Improve your English: the question mark

Do you call this a question mark or an interrogation mark?

The question mark is a symbol (?) used at the end of a question.

It’s also known as the interrogation mark or interrogation point.



A question mark is placed at the end of a word, phrase or sentence to show that what comes before it is a question.

For example:

Are you warm enough?

What’s your name?

Where are you from?

Where are you going?

Do you like coffee?

What’s that?

What time do you start work?

Who are you?

Do you prefer orange juice or apple juice?



Direct Quotations

A question mark is also used if the question is a direct quotation that repeats the speaker’s exact words:

“Do you like my new shoes?”, he asked.

“What time do you start work?”, she asked.



Reported Questions

Reported questions do not have a question mark at the end:

He asked me if I like computer games.

I asked her if she could open the window.

She asked me where I was born.

She asked us if we would come to the party with her.



I wonder…

If you, or someone else, is wondering about something, a question mark is not used:

Where is she from, I wondered.

I wonder if I’ll get the job.



Expressing suprise

By adding a question mark to a statement we can show surprise:

Your favourite meal is goat curry and chips?

You travelled across India alone?



Expressing Doubt

The question mark can also be used to express doubt or uncertainty about a word or phrase.

In this case the question mark is usually put in curved brackets (parentheses).

For example, in the following sentence the writer is not sure of the colour of the man’s jacket:

He had short black hair and a beard, and he was wearing a grey (?) jacket and blue jeans.



Informal Use

More than one question mark is sometimes used in informal writing when writing an especially strong question.

For example:

Are you sure??

What did you say??


Sometimes the question mark is followed by an exclamation mark for the same effect:

Are you sure?!

What did you say?!

interrobangAlternatively, maybe we could use the interrobang, which is a question mark and an exclamation mark combined 🙂

What do you think?

Do you like the interrobang? Should we start using it in our writing?




  1. Should we start using the interrobang ‽
    I don’t like it, and why should I?!?!
    Seriously, I’ve never heard of the interrobang before, so thank you for telling us about it. But I feel that a ?! looks more powerful than a ‽ (As I’m typing this I can hardly see it. It might look a bit better once I press the ‘post comment’ button)
    Angelika Davey recently posted..Is this the season of the pickled gherkins?My Profile

    • Hi Angelika,

      I agree, the interrobang seems a bit pointless to me. I guess it saves a key stroke when typing but, as you say, it’s difficult to see what it is – and anyway I like the ?! combination for effect 🙂

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