8 julio, 2024

Question mark: what it is, meaning, origin, basic rules

What is the question mark?

He question mark (?) It is a graph that serves to represent the tone of a question in a sentence. Unlike other languages, Spanish requires the presence of an opening sign (¿) that will go at the beginning of the sentence. For example, what time is it?

The main function of this symbol is to directly highlight the special character of the interrogative type, although depending on the formulation of the sentence, it is possible to indicate this feature, even if it does not carry the signs.

Regarding pronunciation, language experts recommend that it is important to give it the correct intonation so that it does not go through a statement (at least not directly).

On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that thanks to the new era of communications, the use of question marks has been distorted, so that on many occasions the true meaning of what you want to express can be lost.


As noted above, the (?) is the sign that denotes a question or doubt in the sentence. In other languages, only this symbol at the end is enough, but in Spanish it represents the closing sign, so it must be accompanied by an opening sign.


When did you go to school? Where do you live? Why do you like movies so much?

According to records, the Royal Spanish Academy made the inclusion of an initial symbol mandatory when asking a question, in the mid-18th century.

However, its use did not become widespread until a century later, when a series of grammatical rules were established in this regard. This even extended to exclamation points.

However, it is important to note that thanks to the digital age, the (¿) has been partially suppressed, for reasons of saving energy and time, although doing so incurs a spelling error.

Despite the fact that for some purists this may predict the loss of language value, some indicate that there is no seriousness, since these are informal conversations. However, the grammar rules of our language indicate that there are opening signs when writing a question.

Origin of the question mark

The graphics originates from the Latin expression quaestiowhich means question. Formerly, it was placed at the beginning of the sentence to imply that a question was being referred to.

However, over time, the word was shortened to whatwhich would eventually become the symbol we know today.

In view of the above, at this point it is worth mentioning some important aspects that determined the use of these signs:

– The first appearances of this graphism were first seen in medieval Latin manuscripts. In fact, it is believed that this was a legacy of the Carolingians, a dynasty of French origin.

– The (?) became common in Spanish, although it was only in 1754 that the Royal Spanish Academy indicated that it was necessary to place an opening sign.

– Despite the rule, the use was still not very clear, since they were only used when it came to long sentences. The same thing happened with exclamation points.

– At the end of the 19th century, the use of both symbols (¿?) was also included in short sentences. Later it would be known as a double sign.

– On the other hand, Galician is another language that makes use of both symbols, although it is optional when it is necessary to clarify the intention of an expression.

intonation of question marks

The correct intonation and pronunciation of the signs allows us to have clear ideas about the intention behind what is expressed. Therefore, for this case there are two types that must be taken into account:

– Total: it is of the ascending type and is used especially when dealing with questions whose answers are yes or no.

– Partial: unlike the previous one, it is descending and refers to a type of question that is not limited to yes or no answers.

Basic rules

For the use of question marks, it is necessary to keep in mind the following:

– They are double signs: one must go at the beginning of the sentence and the other at the end.

– They are written pasted from the letter that precedes or precedes them.

– A space must be left between the words that precede or precede.

– The final sign represents a point (followed or final) in a sentence, so it is not necessary to place it.

Uses of question marks

Some authors include other types of uses that are worth mentioning:

– Vocatives: when the vocative goes before the interrogative expression. Example: «Raúl, will you come to eat?»

– Informative appendix: they are intended to confirm or deny something. Example: «After the presentation, what is your opinion about it?»

– With introductory expressions: they are accompanied by expressions such as “as regards”, “in relation to” or “with reference to”. Example: «Regarding the trip you made, what did you think of Europe?»

– Likewise, they can also be used after adverbs or adverbial allocutions, in sentences with dependent expressions, and later to discursive connectors.

Other uses

– When writing several questions, it is necessary to take into account if the statements are independent or if they are part of the same sentence. This is to know if commas (,) are placed between the questions, or if they are left as is.

Example with several questions: “What is your name? Where are you from? Where do you live?».

Example when the questions are part of the same statement: «When we met, he asked me, how have you been? Are you still living in the city?»

At this point, Spanish allows a melting pot of meanings and intonations depending on the intention one has. Although some of them can be difficult to express in writing, question marks are a channel to communicate these nuances:

– They are enclosed in parentheses and can mean doubt or irony. Example: “Yes, he seems to be a smart boy (?)”.

– There are cases where the exclamatory and interrogative intention can be combined at the same time. Example: «What are you doing here?!».

– In certain literary works it is possible to find double question marks to emphasize the expression. Example: «Did he really tell you that??»

– Another frequent use has to do with dates or doubtful data. This is especially the case when the exact moment of a given event is unknown. Example: «This Renaissance painter (1501? -1523) was little known in his time.»

Other punctuation marks

Other punctuation marks can be named:

– Exclamation marks (!): They are used to indicate shouts or interjections and can also be present in imperative and exhortatory sentences. Example: «Oh!», «Wow!», «Mom, Pedro is bothering me!», «I told you to take a bath early.»

– Ellipses (…): are used to generate doubt, expectation or the feeling of continuation.

– Hyphen (-): it is used to join words, show the division of a word at the end of a line and in dictionaries as a way to mark the separation of the compound syllables in a word.

Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *