5

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Why is there a upside down question mark"¿" in the begging of a question??

  • Posted Mar 7, 2013
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  • This is one of my favorite Spanish questions of all time! Also, btw, I love your avatar... HISSSS BOOOM! - Rocoso Mar 15, 2013

6 Answers

3

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"in the beginning of a question" You really aren't "begging" the question are you?

To answer yours: this is just part of the Spanish language punctuation along with "¡". There's really no simple answer as to why. All languages have history so the answer is in research. Better to just remember that when you write a question you begin it with "¿" always.

3

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It is a good question! Very explainable when you think about the concept of 'what is a question' in general.

Think about this: when you're asking a question of someone, don't you have to inflect your voice differently than if you're just making a statement? Well, what if you're not speaking and just writing, how do you make sure people know they're about to read a question and not a general statement since there's no way to inflect your voice while silently reading? I mean, we don't want people wandering into questions thinking that they're statements and visa-versa, as this would cause some interesting problems!

Therefore, we can assume that the inverted question mark arose in order to warn people of an impending question! We don't need an inverted question mark in English though because we have the auxiliary verb 'do', something that Spanish doesn't have!

Think about it; in English we know that we're about to read a question when we see a sentence that starts with some form of "do". "Do you have change?", "Do you have a moment?", "Does that man know his fly is open?" , etc. Even WITHOUT the question mark at the end!

However, Spanish doesn't have any word like that! If I wrote in Spanish (and did not speak): "A ti te gusta la sopa" with no punctuation, it could be either a statement or a question! It could either mean "You like the soup", stating a fact, or "Do you like the soup?", asking a question. There's no way to tell! That leaves a lot of ambiguity, which is something a writer never wants (well not usually, anyway!).

Therefore, the regular question mark was introduced in order to let readers know that this sentence is a question, not a statement of fact. However, the inverted question mark is helpful in Spanish because it lets people know BEFORE THE END of the sentence what they're about to read is a question, which allows them to interpret it right the first time, rather than making them go back again and re-read the phrase as a question!

Make sense? Isn't it interesting?

Edit: Read the comments of this post, someone adds a few other cases where the "Do" is not the tip-off word to an oncoming question in English.

Edit: had to make a couple spelling fixes!

  • Mar 15, 2013
  • | Edited by Rocoso Mar 15, 2013
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  • Great explanation! - michaelkirk1 Mar 15, 2013
  • Unfortunately, people don't realize that our use of "do" as a verb of questioning eliminates our need almost entirely for the question mark, except in some circumstances, like phrasings such as "You like that?" - Rocoso Mar 15, 2013
  • When a form of be, have, or a modal is present, do/does/did is not used to form a question or negate a declaration. So the tipoff is more about the inversion of the subject and the first word of the verbal phrase than the presence of do/does/did itself. - brian5764 Mar 15, 2013
  • Certainly there are exceptions with have/has/had. Sometimes they’re used in conjunction with do/does/did. But with a modal verb or some form of be (main or auxiliary verb), no way. The tipoff is not do/does/did in these cases. - brian5764 Mar 15, 2013
  • Thank you for the add'l notes on exceptions to the "Do/Does/Did" rule. I always seem to forget about "have" and its respective forms! - Rocoso Mar 15, 2013
1

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This is an interesting question that probably has no answer. Why do we call a cat "cat" and not "gato" or vice versa? It is just the way the language evolved.

  • Mar 7, 2013
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1

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Why is there a upside down question mark"¿" in the begging of a question??

Why does English lack the first question mark? (that tells us from the very start that we are now reading a question)

  • Mar 14, 2013
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0

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Okeay now it makes more sense.

  • Mar 14, 2013
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For a little more on this go here

  • Mar 15, 2013
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