Rhetorical question

From Academic Kids

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for rhetorical effect rather than for the purpose of getting an answer ("How many times do I have to tell you to stop walking into the house with mud on your shoes?").

A rhetorical question seeks to encourage reflection within the listener as to what the answer to the question (at least, the answer implied by the questioner) must be. When a speaker declaims, "How much longer must our people endure this injustice?" or "Will our company grow or shrink?", no formal answer is expected. Rather, it is a device used by the speaker to assert or deny something.


Examples

  • "How can people have hope when we tell them that they have no recourse, if they run afoul of the state justice system?" Edward Kennedy Senate debate on the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act 1968
  • "Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? / When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: / Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: / Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; / And Brutus is an honourable man. / You all did see that on the Lupercal / I thrice presented him a kingly crown, / Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?" William Shakespeare Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene 2.

Some rhetorical questions become idiomatic English expressions:

"What's the matter with you?"
"Don't you know any better?"
"Have you no shame?"
"Is the Pope Catholic?"
"Do fish swim?"
"Are you crazy?"
"Who cares?"
"How should I know?"
"Are you kidding me?"

Some TV shows have had rhetorical questions as titles, such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and Whose Line Is It Anyway?

See Also

External links

de:Rhetorische Frage it:Domanda retorica nl:Retorische vraag pl:Pytanie retoryczne

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