Interrogative mood

Interrogative mood

In linguistics and grammar, the interrogative mood (abbreviated int) is an epistemic grammatical mood used for asking questions by inflecting the main verb.[1] 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 吗/嗎 ma.
    彼は日本人です Kare wa Nihon-jin desu; "He is Japanese."
    彼は日本人です Kare wa Nihon-jin desu ka?; "Is he Japanese?"
    他是中国人 (Chinese: 他是中國人; pinyin: Tā shì Zhōngguórén) "He is Chinese [boy/man]."
    他是中国人 (Chinese: 他是中國人; pinyin: Tā shì Zhōngguórén ma?) "Is he 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 grammatically interrogative endings generating an interrogative mood as in most varieties of Venetian — e.g. Old Venetian vu magnèmagnè-vu? → Modern Venetian magneto/magnèu?, now used also with overt subjects; Voaltri magnèo co mi? (literally "You eat-you with me?").
  • English similarly changes word order from SVO to VSO ("You are sure" becomes, "Are you sure?"). Very often, the auxiliary verb "do" is inserted, undergoing the change in word order in the place of the main verb ("You have brown hair" becomes, "Do you have brown hair?"). This latter form became quite common in English in the late 16th century.
  • Spoken Welsh changes the primary auxiliary verb bod — e.g. Rwyt ti'n bwyta "You are eating" → Wyt ti'n bwyta? "Are you eating?"
  • In Turkish, the interrogative preposition "mı" (also "mi", "mu", "mü" according to the last vowel of the word) is added. Other personal or verbal suffixes are also added to the suitable preposition.
    Geliyorum. "I am coming."
    Geliyor muyum? "Am I coming?"
    Geliyordum. "I was coming."
    Geliyor muydum? "Was I coming?"
    Geldim. "I came."
    Geldim mi? "Did I come?"
    Evlisin. "You are married."
    Evli misin? "Are you married?"
  • Offering the listener an explicit yes/no alternative, such as in Mandarin:
    他是中国人 (Chinese: 他是中國人; pinyin: Tā shì Zhōngguórén) "He is Chinese."
    是不是中国人? (Chinese: 是不是中國人?; pinyin: shì bu shì Zhōngguórén?; literally "He is/isn't Chinese?") "Is he Chinese?"
  • Using a different intonation. English usually ends questions with a rising tone. In some Romance languages, such as Italian, some 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


  1. ^ Loos, Eugene E.; Susan Anderson; Dwight H. Day, Jr.; Paul C. Jordan; J. Douglas Wingate. "What is interrogative mood?". Glossary of linguistic terms. SIL International. Retrieved 2009-12-28.