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Rhetorical Question: Meaning, Usage, Examples in Literature

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Can’t you see it with your own eyes? It’s a rhetorical question, which we unknowingly use in daily language. Most of us must not be aware of this term rhetorical or what are the questions with obvious answers called, but we definitely come across many rhetorical questions and answers. 

For instance:

Calling a friend late at night and saying: Were you sleeping, dear?

The above question has an obvious answer, Yes, which makes it a rhetorical question.

And irritatedly, that friend would say: No, which idiot would sleep at this hour’. 

Here, this rhetorical question aligns well with sarcasm.

A teacher saying it to a student who is sleeping in the class: Should I bring some pillow and blanket for you?

Here, the teacher is not expecting an answer from the student, which again is rhetorical.

Broadly, the idea behind a rhetorical question is to make a point, instead of getting an actual answer and it can be humorous, obvious, or thought-provoking.  

Rhetorical question meaning

A question with no expected answer or obvious answer is what rhetorical question definition says. So, what does it do? 

It is used when you are trying to make a point or provoke thoughts among the audience, such as Can a fish walk? Here, this can be used in reference to declining an impossible thing.


Here, how it goes.

Knowingly, asking a non-singer – Hey, can you sing beautifully? 

The questioner is asking this without expecting any answer just for some humor. But, to that, if the listener says 

Can a fish walk? It means here, the listener replies rhetorically to prove the point that he cannot sing beautifully. 

Easy to understand, Right? Even this is a rhetorical question, and that’s how we use these unknowingly in everyday routine.

Look at some more rhetorical question examples to understand better.

Can a river flow back? 

Isn’t playing video games going to make you a billionaire one day? 

Would you like to knock on the door? ( when a person is trying to enter the room quietly)

Oh! I haven’t put any door to knock in my room, haven’t I? (when a person enters the room without knocking)

Rhetorical Explanation

In English, rhetorical questions go well with sarcasm or sometimes a rude tone. These kinds of questions are generally stated under negative rhetorical questions.

Furthermore, a rhetorical question can be stated as a device in the literature that is used to make some impact on the listener or influence the audience without actually expecting an answer in return. 

Just like William Shakespeare did in his play, referring that Jews too are human.

 If you prick us, do we not bleed? (The Merchant of Venice)

Examples of rhetorical questions usage:

Didn’t she come out like a rock star in the presentation? (Metaphor rhetorical question)

If you read the sentence, you can mark out a figure of speech, i.e. a metaphor. It compares the girl’s performance in the presentation with a rock star. 

An experienced driver said to a non-driver after he poked: Would you like to drive instead? 

This would come under negative rhetoric as it conveys unhappiness, sarcasm, or irritation. 

Would you like to add some more clothes to your bag?

When the bag has reached its saturation point and can’t stuff any more clothes.

Rhetorical Questions Usage

Apart from the basic use, these questions can be used to introduce the subject or as a title to engage readers such as 

Why do we need to eat healthy food? 

This question introduces the subject ‘healthy food’ and at the same time will likely to engage more readers as and when said ‘The need of eating healthy food’.

Some more examples:

What are cotton clothes made of?

How smartphones are affecting our social life?

What role does the sleeping cycle play in our health?

Common Examples

Read the below examples and think if you have heard them sometimes.

For a garden that embraces flowers. Beautiful garden, isn’t it? 

Teacher to a student who is eating in the middle of the class. Would you like me to bring in some cutlery?

After spilling water on the floor. Is the floor wet?

Is the concept of the rhetorical question clear? After reading of the entire article, we now expect you to understand the term rhetorical and hence, the rhetorical question for you at the end.

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