Question sentence

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A question sentence (also interrogative sentence or erotema ) is a sentence whose function is typically to ask a question . The speaking act of the question is used to obtain an informative answer. The question sentence, like the statement sentence and the prompt sentence, is a type of sentence .

Classification of question and interrogative sentences

Hadumod Bußmann divides the questions into three groups. Questions are usually divided into:

In addition, sentences in the form of the declarative sentence ( V2 position ) can be used as a question by using question intonation (a falling-rising tone pattern):
"You really wrote the article from the oral tradition?" (With question intonation)
  • Alternative questions , also disjunctive questions ; they consist of two decision questions that are connected by the conjunction or . - example:
    "Was the Wikipedia contribution good or bad?"
  • Supplementary questions , including constituent interrogatives; These are the typical W questions , they are introduced by an interrogative pronoun or adverb (sub-question). The answer can consist of a whole answer sentence or just naming the part asked for. Example:
    - "What is the article about?"
    - "(The article is about) the making of the moon."
  • There is also the special form of the echo question , which repeats a sentence as a query and inserts a question word at the point where confirmation of correct understanding is required:
    - "Grandma had a nose piercing done."
    - "She had WHAT done?"

Interrogative sentence and question

Grammatical form of the question sentence

Question sentence and speech act

A distinction must be made between the grammatical form of a question sentence and the type of spoken action of the question . With a question sentence not only can a question be asked, but other speech acts can also be carried out. In this way, a question phrase can also indirectly trigger a request or make an assertion.

Questions with a request, request or command :

  • "Is the door locked too ?" (Possible sense is an appeal : "Check this and close the door if it is not locked!")
  • “Can you please tell me what time it is?” (Common sense at the factual level : “Please tell me what time it is!”) One does not expect the answer yes or no , but the time. If the answer is no , it politely requires an explanation.

There are also questions for which the speaker does not want an answer to his question ( rhetorical question in the broader sense),

  • (Newspaper headline) "Will Germany win the EM ?"

or (rhetorical question in the narrower sense) wants to get the addressee to agree to the speaker's opinion. Rhetorical questions of this kind are classified as indirect assertions in speech act theory .

  • "Employee M. is not really sick, is it?" (Possible sense: "Employee M. simulates. (You will surely agree with me.)")

Question sentence and intonation

Raising the voice at the end of the questioning sentence (emphasizing) is not absolutely necessary if the question is already sufficiently identified by the question word or the bent verb form at the beginning of the sentence. The intonation can differ from region to region. It can be increasing or decreasing.

Question sentence types

In terms of syntax , a distinction is also made between direct and indirect questions .

Direct and indirect questions

Direct questions are questions that are formulated as a separate set of questions. Do you always end with a question mark in German ? (see punctuation marks ):

  • "When will you come tomorrow?"

Indirect questions are embedded in a sentence that does not have the grammatical form of a question. As a speech act there can still be a question:

  • "I would like to know when you are coming tomorrow."


  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .
  • Duden - The grammar. 8th edition. Bibliographisches Institut (Dudenverlag), Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 2009, ISBN 978-3-411-04048-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: questionnaire  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.): Lexicon of Linguistics. 3rd, updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 , p. 223 (article questioning sentence).