Interrogative mood

Interrogative mood

In linguistics and grammar, the interrogative mood is a grammatical mood used for asking questions by inflecting the main verb. Its occurrence is rare.

Examples of languages with an interrogative mood

Alternatives to the interrogative mood

Very few languages have an interrogative mood. For most languages, there is no special question-asking mood. Many languages employ one of the following syntactic methods to change an ordinary sentence (declarative statement) into a question:

  • Adding a particle to the beginning or end of a sentence, such as the Japanese particle ka and the Mandarin particle ma.
  • :Kare wa Nihon-jin desu. (He is a Japanese.)
  • :→ Kare wa Nihon-jin desu ka? (Is he a Japanese?)
  • :Tā shì Zhōngguórén. (He is a Chinese.)
  • :→ Tā shì Zhōngguórén ma? (Is he a Chinese?)
  • Adding a generic ending to the end of a word, such as in Latin where -ne is added to the end of the first word of the interrogation:
  • :Tu es puer. (You are a boy.)
  • :→Tune es puer? (Are you a boy?)
  • Changing word order. In some Romance languages, such as French, one also asks a question by switching the verb with the subject (SVO → VSO). The switched subject can later result in grammaticality interrogative endings generating an interrogative mood as in most varieties of Venetian e.g. old ven. "vu magnè" → "magnè-vu?" → mod.ven. "magneto/magnèu?", now used also with overt subjects "Voaltri magnèo co mi?" (lit. You eat-you with me?)
  • English uses a combination of the above, changing the order of the subject and the first auxiliary verb, and adding the auxiliary verb "do" to the start of the sentence. "You are sure" becomes "Are you sure?" Also, the indicative statement "You have brown hair" is changed to the question "Do you have brown hair?" by inserting 'do' at the front of the sentence. This type of question formation was becoming quite common in English around the time of Shakespeare (late 1500s).
  • Spoken Welsh changes the primary auxiliary verb 'bod'; e.g. Rwyt ti'n bwyta (You are eating), Wyt ti'n bwyta? (Are you eating?)
  • Offering the listener an explicit yes/no alternative; example: Mandarin.
  • :Tā shì Zhōngguórén. (He is a Chinese.)
  • :→ Tā shì bu shì Zhōngguórén? (He is a Chinese or not?)
  • Using a different intonation. English usually ends questions with a rising tone. In some Romance languages, such as Italian, interrogative sentences are distinguished from declarative sentences only through intonation.

Languages that use a special mood of the verb to mark questions may also employ one or more of the preceding methods. For example, a language could always use the interrogative mood to ask a question, but it could also offer the listener a choice if a certain answer is desired.

See also

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