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Rhetorical Questions

 

Techniques > Questioning > Rhetorical Questions

Gaining agreement | Hedging | Self-talk | Multiple questions | See also

 

Rhetorical questions are not really questions, but statements given in question format.

Public speakers often use rhetorical questions in the middle of speeches. Of course, the audience cannot all answer, but the intent is to engage them in thinking and consider what answer they would give if they could.

In figures of speech, rhetorical questions are known as Erotema.

Gaining agreement

Rhetorical questions are often intended to make the listener agree with the speaker as the answer is obviously yes. Even if the listener does not say the word, they will think it. And once they start agreeing they are more likely to keep doing so.

Is the Pope a Catholic?
Is the sky blue?
Is this a great product?

Hedging

We use rhetorical questions sometimes when we want to make a statement but are not confident enough to assert a point. The question format thus allows others to disagree, but is not necessarily seeking agreement.

Isn't that wonderful? Is it a shade of blue?

Self-talk

Sometimes when you ask questions, you are really asking them of yourself rather than the other person. this is particularly noticeable when you give the answer soon after asking the question.

What is that? A bird, I'd say. What type? Maybe an eagle? I think so. What a lovely flight path.

Multiple questions

When you ask multiple questions at once, you seldom expect them all to be answered, and perhaps none of them.

They become particularly rhetorical when you do not give time for the other person to answer.

Where have you been? What time do you think this is? Do you think you can come home late like this and nobody notice?

Terminating statement

Another way that stopping the other person from answering is to put a statement of some sort immediately after the question.

There is hence no space for the person to answer the question and they are directed more by the final statement than the question.

Can you see? Look there!

See also

Figures of speech

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