The English Pedant – A statement is not a question

To be or not to be_ is that a question_

Questions. What are they? Well, they are questions. They are phrases in which we ask for clarification about something – we are eliciting information.

Questions are like this:

What is the time?

Where were you going?

Can you swim?

Is this the way to Amarillo?

What they are not is statements.

‘I wonder if you know the time’ is not a question. It is a statement. It tells somebody that I am wondering about something.

‘I hope you can swim’ is not a question. It is a statement about what I hope.

‘You didn’t tell me where you were going’ is not a question. It is a statement. I am telling you I didn’t know something.

‘I want to know the way to Amarillo’ is not a question. It is a statement. I’m telling you what I want to know.

STATEMENTS DO NOT BECOME QUESTIONS JUST BECAUSE YOU PUT A QUESTION MARK AT THE END.

I’m sorry to shout, but this is getting out of control. People are putting question marks on statements that imply something is not known, suggesting that they are questions.

And the question is: WHY NOT JUST ASK A BLOODY QUESTION?

This is something that a teacher of English as a foreign language has to explain, particularly to Spanish speakers. In their language, they say ‘This is the way to Amarillo?’ and you know it’s a question by the way their voice rises at the end.

To be or not to be_ is that a question_

In English, if we do that, it’s sarcastic. It means we are saying it is not the way to Amarillo or we’re very surprised that the way to Amarillo should be through a supermarket and across the icy wastes of Antarctica.

So come on, English speakers, you learned how to do this before you even went to school. ‘Can I have some more chocolate?’ That’s a question. ‘I was hoping I could have some more chocolate?’ is a statement, not a question, and it doesn’t need a question mark.

We know why you do it. It’s something to do with being polite, and suggesting a question without actually asking one.

The thing is, you don’t need to do that.

Is that clear? And the statement is ‘I hope that is clear’.

Without a bleeding question mark.

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2 thoughts on “The English Pedant – A statement is not a question

  1. Kevin Rodriguez November 18, 2015 / 8:42 am

    I think when English Learners make a statement into a question its usually because they are unsure if what they are saying is correct. Great Post! Greetings from teflgermany.com

    Like

    • chrismorvan November 21, 2015 / 6:55 pm

      Yes, I think that is often true of English learners. But among native English speakers it’s just an epidemic.

      Liked by 1 person

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