Rhetorical Question Examples

Is the sky blue? Do pigs fly? Do dogs woof? Rhetorical question examples for empowering ELA teachers

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What is A Rhetorical Question?

A rhetorical question is asked without expecting an answer or when the answer is obvious. Rhetorical questions are generally either questions that don't have an answer, or they have very obvious and easy answers. Like most types of figurative language, a rhetorical question has multiple uses, but usually, it is a tool to help persuade an audience, to emphasize a point, or for humor.

Rhetorical questions are common in everyday conversation but are also used in more formal situations, particularly in speeches and persuasive essays. They are less common in formal academic writing, although you may sometimes encounter them there as well. In addition, you will see rhetorical questions in literature.

rhetorical question example

The Purpose of Rhetorical Questions in Casual Conversations

There are many different reasons you might use rhetorical questions in casual conversations.

When You Want to Express Surprise

Sometimes, rhetorical question examples have an obvious answer, and sometimes they don't need to be answered at all. Rhetorical questions to show your surprise could be to start a debate, stir up trouble, or start a conversation. These aren't questions with an answer, at least not a clear one.

  1. Are you kidding me?
  2. Are you crazy?
  3. Who knows?
  4. Why bother?
  5. Are you serious?

Rhetorical Questions to Make a Point

Want to make a point? Or drive an important point home so the person you're speaking to gets it; try one of these.

  1. Do you want to get us in trouble?
  2. Do you want to be a failure in life?
  3. Do you think money grows on trees?
  4. Can my day get any worse?
  5. Can you go any slower?

To Point Out An Obvious Answer

Do pigs fly? Is water wet? These are all rhetorical question examples. They have obvious answers because, of course, water is wet, and nope, sorry, pigs don't fly. These rhetorical questions, also called rhetorical affirmations, can be used to talk about facts or to emphasize a point. The answers could also be suggested from context clues.

  1. Are you excited about your vacation?
  2. Is rain wet?
  3. Can dolphins swim?
  4. Is the pope a Catholic?
  5. Kids grow up, don't they?

Here are a few more rhetorical question examples that are common in everyday usage:

  1. Who cares?
  2. What am I going to do?
  3. Who knows?
  4. How could you not see this coming?
  5. What's not to like?

How to Write a Rhetorical Question

Rhetorical questions can also be a way of introducing a subject. You might use this in casual conversation. It's also a format you may have heard comedians use to start a joke. These are usually cues for agreement, but the main purpose is setting up the topic you want to discuss. Usually, the person asking it goes straight into the story after asking the question, although there might be nods or other signs of agreement from the audience. Just remember that rhetorical questions provoke thought.

  1. Don't you hate when your car is making a weird noise, and then you take it to a mechanic, and it stops making it?
  2. You know when you go to the doctor, and they ask you to wait even though you have an appointment?
  3. Have you ever had one of those veggie burgers that costs twice as much as anything else on the menu and has half as much flavor?
  4. It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.
  5. What do batteries run on?

Rhetorical Question Examples in Speeches and Essays

Politicians and important speakers use rhetorical questions all the time, that's because a rhetorical question asks the audience to think about something important, often to take action or vote in a certain way. Here are some examples.

Rhetorical Question Examples

Powerful Persuasion and Making a Point

Is this the kind of people we are? The rhetorical question here aims to turn the audience's attention upon themselves and make them search for their consciences.

Open-Ended Questions to Provoke Thought

Who do we want to be as a people and a nation?
This invites listeners to reflect on the question and the nature of how they see themselves and their country.


Can we allow this to continue?

The writer is trying to persuade readers that something currently happening is wrong.

Rhetorical Question Flashcards

Often a rhetorical question is used to persuade, influence, or change something. Look at these rhetorical question examples on flashcards; each has a specific purpose.

Rhetorical Question Examples in Literature

Rhetorical questions are not just for conversation, speeches and essays. You'll see them in poems and stories as well. Writers love to give their readers something to think about or reflect on, so what better way than using rhetorical question examples? Leaving a question unanswered allows the reader time to spend time thinking. Here are some examples:

  1. A love poem might include a line like this: has there ever been a face so lovely as yours?
  2. You might encounter a rhetorical question in a story with a first-person narrator, in dialogue, or in a character's thoughts:
    Wasn't I just as important as everyone else in the family? Didn't I deserve the same consideration? Was I not just as vulnerable to despair as the rest of them?
  3. Here's a rhetorical question that might be posed by the story's narrator or a character. Note that the question does not ask for exact numbers but invites the reader to reflect on the question without expecting an answer: How many had already died in pursuit of this ideal, and how many more would follow them?
  4. "Am I a coward? Who calls me a villain?" - Hamlet by William Shakespeare. We're not expected to answer, but with this rhetorical question, we observe how Hamlet feels.
  5. "Will no one tell me what she sings?" - The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth. Again no answer is necessary, but William Wordsworth uses a rhetorical question to emphasize his surprise.


Got a question about a rhetorical question? See if we've answered it here.

What is a rhetorical question?

Why use rhetorical questions in speech?

What is the purpose of rhetorical strategy?

Are rhetorical questions figurative language?

Before you go...

A rhetorical question can be a powerful literary device when you are trying to persuade your audience of something. It can be combined with other literary devices, such as hyperbole or irony, to drive your point home even more effectively. Recognizing and understanding its function can make your own writing stronger.