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What is a question mark?

What is a question mark?
Understand how question marks are explained and taught in the primary school classroom with our parents' guide to punctuation and grammar.

What is a question mark?

A question mark is a punctuation mark, or a symbol, that shows that a question has ended.

Question marks can also be known as interrogation points as they end sentences where an answer or response is expected.

Question marks usually end question sentences. A question sentence is one that often starts with one of the following words: who, what, when, where, why or how, but question marks can also be used with sentences that start with other words.

Question marks can be added to sentences to represent a questioning tone that would be used when spoken aloud.

It is not grammatically correct to use question marks for indirect questions, for example:

How are question marks taught in the primary classroom?

In Year 1, children will ask and be asked questions on various topics and discuss why they do so (to find out an answer to something). As part of their speaking and listening development, most teachers will discuss how we ask a question verbally with an inflection (change of tone of voice) at the end. To show this change of voice and that we would like to find out something, we use a question mark.

Children will identify question sentences from worksheets, punctuate various sentences types with the appropriate punctuation, and then begin to write their own sentences as they progress throughout their time at school.

It is crucial to remember that asking questions isn’t solely a written exercise at school – being able to ask questions orally to further knowledge also forms part a child’s development in speaking and listening.

When are question marks taught in primary school?

Question marks are first taught in Key Stage 1, specifically Year 1, when a child is taught the difference between "yelling, telling and asking" sentences. Children will begin to write question sentences ending with a question mark during Year 1.

By the end of Year 2, children will be expected to be able to identify question sentences and punctuate them with question marks in their Key Stage 1 SATs. For example:


To leave Year 2 working at the expected standard for a child of their age in writing, children would be expected to demonstrate they can punctuate question sentences accurately and consistently when appropriate.

In Year 3, children will be taught how to use question marks within direct speech.

By the end of Year 6, children will be expected to be able to identify question sentences and punctuate them in Key Stage 2 SATs. For example:

By the end of Year 6, for children to reach the expected standard in writing, they will be expected to use question marks consistently and accurately in their writing.

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