Punctuation Guide: When to Use Question Marks

Talking about punctuation marks, don’t forget the one that forms questions.

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Asking a question

Of course, it is impossible to request something in writing without question marks.

And what does a question mark mean? That’s easy—we put it in every sentence in which we want to know answers. In other words, we need a question mark to ask a question—that’s all! Here’s an example:


Did you cook this without any help?


Question within a sentence

Sometimes we want to place a question in the middle of a sentence. Interestingly, many writers abandon that idea, because of the fear of proper use of punctuation:


The question, What if there are no tickets left? bothered everyone.


How to quote a question

A common punctuation problem among students is where to place a question mark—inside or outside quotes.

Both variants are possible, but be careful choosing the correct option. Punctuation inside or outside quotes is as follows:

When the question is part of the quotation, put a question mark in quotes:


She always irritates their team by asking “Did you win?”

Let’s talk about quotation rules if the question isn’t part of the quotation. In this case, place a question mark outside quotes:


He ran out of the forest as if he was insane. And now you’re trying to say that it was just Dennis snoring inside his tent that was the “wild bear”?


Editorial comment

When school teachers tell us where to put punctuation, often they forget about editorial comments. But we’ve included that instance—use a question mark framed by parentheses to show the fragments you’re not sure of or don’t understand:


136 children passed this test: 8 (?) of them got less than 30 points.


Exclamation question mark

The other term for this combination of exclamation and question marks is interrobang. Some authors use it to express surprise and exclamation at the same time.

In writing, it can be presented as ?!, !?, or .

We don’t advise using this punctuation mark as you only find it in informal writing:


And you are leaving us in this dangerous situation‽


Inverted question mark

We are often asked why some people use an upside-down question mark. Honestly, this mysterious punctuation sign ¿ isn’t difficult to explain.

It’s just a question mark used in the Spanish language. Also, in the Spanish language, this upside-down question mark begins a sentence.

Want to know how to type an upside-down question? Hold down the Alt key and type the number 0191 on the number pad.

Question mark – further study

Now, you know all the cases for question marks’ usage. If you aren’t sure how to use them next time you are writing, just find an example in this article, and the choice will become much easier.