A question mark is a punctuation point used following a question in a sentence. It is both an indicator of a question and a full stop at the verdict.

What is a Question Mark?

Question marks are common punctuation marks used in language to indicate a question.

Question marks are one of the most important types of punctuation that your little ones will learn. After all, without question marks, we’d miss out on all kinds of things: interesting questions, invitations, inside jokes, and so much more!

They always appear at the end of sentences in the place of a full stop. The main purpose of a question mark is to indicate that a correction is a question. Direct questions often (but not always) begin with a wh-word (who, what, when, where, why).

They change the tone of a sentence, similar to an ellipsis or exclamation mark.

What are the uses of question marks?

Question marks can be used in direct speech but are not used in indirect speech. Check out the difference between how questions are written in natural speech and indirect speech below:


‘Have you done your homework?’

‘How much did those shoes cost?’

‘Why were you late to school?’


He asked me if I had completed my homework.

I was asked how much my shoes cost.

My teacher asked me why I was late for school.

Question Marks and Quotation Marks

Mixing different types of punctuation can seem tricky to your students. However, the rules for punctuating questions within quotation marks are quite simple:

  • If the question mark relates to the entire sentence instead of the phrase inside the quotation marks, put it at the very end and outside the quotation marks. For example, ‘the reporter wondered, “what did she mean when she said ‘It’s a free country’?”
  • On the other hand, you should keep the question mark inside the marks if the question applies to what is enclosed in the quotation marks. You’ll often see this in written dialogue. For example, ‘” where did you hide my books?” she said’.

Question Marks and Brackets/Parenthesis

Now we’ve mastered question marks vs. quotation marks; it is time to move on to brackets and parenthesis. The guidelines for question marks and parentheses are related to the rules for question marks and quotation marks.

If a question mark relates to the parenthetical info, place the question mark inside the parentheses. Alternatively, if the text inside the parenthesis/ brackets is simply additional information, the question mark must be placed outside the frames.

Check out these examples to see this rule in action.

  • I saw the chicken (or was it a bird?) crossing the road.
  • Will the chicken cross the road again tomorrow (May 3)?
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