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Declarative questions

11 October 2019

Spoken grammar: lexico-grammatical features of conversation highlighted in corpus research.


Declarative questions


Declarative questions are statements that, because of the context and the speaker’s intonation, act like yes/no questions:


A: (arriving home) I’ve been driving around for hours, trying to find the tip.

B: You got lost? (rather than the full or ‘open’ question form, ‘Did you get lost’?)

A: Completely.

B: But you’ve lived here all your life!


Declarative questions tend to be used when information has already been ‘shared’ between the speakers, and often express an attitude such as surprise (above) or concern (below), as well as asking for a response:


A: …and then tomorrow, we’re planning to climb Ben Nevis.

B: You’ll be careful? The weather can change in seconds.

A: Yeah. We’ve got all the gear.


What’s interesting are the words and phrases we frequently use around declarative questions: ‘so’ and ‘then’ in recognition of shared knowledge; ‘and’ and ‘but’ to emphasize an attitude such as ‘concern’; and question tags to stress a desire for confirmation:


A: I’ve just signed up for evening classes.

B: So you’re finally learning Italian, then?


A: I should be in Edinburgh by six.

B: Right. And you’ll call me when you get there?


A: I’ve got to dash now, I’m afraid.

B: OK. But we’ll see each other at the weekend, won’t we?


To find out about teaching spoken grammar, you are welcome to visit my online course, Spoken Grammar: A Guide for English Language Teachers.