Simple rhetorical questions

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Rhetorical questions are ones where the speaker doesn't really expect an answer. The answer should be obvious, and the question is asked in order to make a point.

Structure

There are several very common types of rhetorical questions using basic words you already know:

不是……吗?

This first one is the easiest and most common. It can be quite friendly, seemingly reminding the other person of a fact they seem to have (conveniently?) forgotten.

能……吗?

This one is often quite sarcastic, pointing out someone else's unrealistic expectations. (The obvious answer is "no" here.)

怎么会……?

This second one has a tone of incredulity. The speaker clearly thinks this shouldn't have happened, or thought it couldn't have happened.

谁让你……?

The third one is exclusively used by surly or annoyed people. It means "who told you to...?" or "who made you...?"

Examples

  • A: 你 看 到 我 的 手机 了 吗?Nǐ kàn dào wǒ de shǒujī le ma? Have you seen my cell phone?
  • B:不 是 在 桌子 上 吗 ?Bù shì zài zhuōzi shàng ma? Isn't that it on the table?
  • A: 我们 什么 时候 开会?Wǒmen shénme shíhou kāi huì?When are we having the meeting?
  • B:不 是 已经 告诉 你 了 吗 ?Bù shì yǐjīng gàosu nǐ le ma?Haven't I told you that already?
  • A: 今天 放假 了,好 开心。Jīntiān fàngjià le, hǎo kāixīn. We go on vacation today. I'm so happy!
  • B:不 是 明天 放假 吗 ?Bù shì míngtiān fàngjià ma?Doesn't vacation start tomorrow?
  • A: 他 又 感冒 了。Tā yòu gǎnmào le. He's caught another cold.
  • B: 他 每天 穿得 都 很少, 不 感冒 吗 ?Tā měi tiān chuān de dōu hěn shǎo, néng bù gǎnmào ma?He never dresses warmly. How could he not catch a cold?
  • A: 今天 我 可能 会 迟到。Jīntiān wǒ kěnéng huì chídào. I might be late today.
  • B:你 起得 这么 晚, 不 迟到 吗 ?Nǐ qǐ de zhème wǎn, néng bù chídào ma?You got up so late, how could you not be late?
  • A: 我 点 了 很多 菜,都是 你 爱 吃 的。Wǒ diǎn le hěn duō cài, dōu shì nǐ ài chī de. I ordered a bunch of food, all stuff that you like.
  • B:晚上 吃 这么 多 菜, 不 胖 吗 ?Wǎnshang chī zhème duō cài, néng bù pàng ma?Eating so much food at night, how could I not gain weight?
  • A: 他们 公司 很 厉害。Tāmen gōngsī hěn lìhai. Their company is really impressive.
  • B:但是 他们 公司 怎么 会 有 这么 笨 的 员工?Dànshì tāmen gōngsī zěnme huì yǒu zhème bèn de yuángōng?But then how can they have such a stupid employee?
  • A: 我 收到 了 你 的 邮件。Wǒ shōudào le nǐ de yóujiàn.I received your text.
  • B:那 你 怎么 会 不 知道 ?Nà nǐ zěnme huì bù zhīdao?Then how is it that you don't know?
  • A:我 感觉 最近 有 一点 胖 了。Wǒ gǎnjué zuìjìn yǒu yīdiǎn pàng le.I feel like I've gained some weight recently.
  • B:谁 让 你 吃 这么 多 ?Yes, this is totally mean in Chinese too, but people do say stuff like this.Shéi ràng nǐ chī zhème duō?Who made you eat so much?
  • A:我 找 不到 我 的 钥匙 了。Wǒ zhǎo bùdào wǒ de yàoshi le.I can't find my key.
  • B:谁 让 你 不 放 在 包 里。Technically a question, but Chinese people often won't write the question mark on a sentence like this.Shéi ràng nǐ bù fàng zài bāo lǐ.What stopped you from putting it in your bag?

See also

Sources and further reading

Books

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