Question Marks 

A question mark should be used at the end of a direct question.

How many eggs shall I buy?
Where is dad?
Who would like an ice-cream?

Different types of question


Tag questions:
A tag question is formed by first making a statement then adding a ‘tag’ to turn it in to a question.

When the statement is positive the tag is negative and vice-versa as you can see in the examples below. Tag questions always end in a question mark.

We should have set off earlier, shouldn’t we ?
John ate all the crisps, didn’t he?
You don’t have any change, do you?
Mary has already set off home, hasn’t she?

Indirect questions
In an indirect question the speaker is reporting the asking of a question and not actually asking a direct question. Indirect questions just need a full stop not a question mark.

I asked mum if we could have a lift to town.
The teacher asked Paul to collect in the homework.
I wonder what I will get for Christmas.
I wonder why my uncle is wearing dark glasses.

Knowledge of the tagged question, the direct question and the indirect question should be enough to allow the general population to achieve the required standard as for as the UK National Curriculum is concerned.


Of course, there are other situations in which decisions need to be made about whether or not to employ a question mark. Teachers can decide on a pupil by pupil basis if their explanation will be appropriate or whether it might ‘muddy the waters’.

After abbreviations:
Sometimes a question might end with a fun stop whicn if part of an abbreviated name. In this case the question mark should come after the final full stop.

The car has broken down, do you have the number for the R.A.C.?
Is the Grand National being broadcast by the B.B.C.?

Polite instructions:
We Brits don’t like to appear brusque, so when we are telling people what to do we often couch the instruction as a request. When a polite instruction takes the form of a question, no question mark is required.

Would everyone wishing to purchase tickets please form an orderly queue.

Multiple questions for effect:
Sometimes as a literary device writers will offer multiple options at the end of a question. Each of the options should have its own question mark.

Who is responsible for a child’s education? the school? the parents? the state?