There’s no question about it; asking questions is more complicated than one imagines. We’re all familiar with the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. They’re seeking answers, and that’s much the point of questions. Questions have a complement: answers. Answers provide knowledge. Answers can be analytical or evaluative or hypothetical. We structure our questions to indicate the type of answer we desire., so, for example, an initial question may follow one form, while a follow-up question assumes a different form. Questions can be characterized as being compound, vague, softball, and hardball. Rhetorical questions aren’t meant to receive an answer. There meant to indicate the bloated ego of the speaker. That makes such a question not far from the more aggressive “loaded” question. That’s way worse than the leading question. Thinking of that, there’s also the “Yes/No” questions that characterize those wonderfully entertaining soap operas we refer to as Senate Hearings. And, of course, the imperative sentence, “Tell me what happened!” is out on its own branch. And how about the philosophical question? (I think I just answered that question.)
As I mentioned some questions, like the rhetorical, aren’t meant for answers. There’s another class of questions we use all the time. The answers they seek have nothing to do with a verbal answer, but rather seek an action of some sort. The question, “Would you hand me that wrench?”, isn’t looking for the verbal response, “Yes, I would.”, or “No, I won’t.”, but rather the action of the addressed individual handing the questioning mechanic the wrench he or she desires. Questions found on quizzes and exams aren’t really there so a teacher can gain some knowledge or have a wrench handed to them, but rather they are there simply to ascertain whether or not the challenged student has any idea what the proper response should be to the daunting question.
Personally, my favorite is the counter-question:
Mother (Noticing the dead cat in the hallway): “Junior, have you seen my Smith & Wesson 29?
Junior (With his hands behind his back): “Why, have you lost it?”
Sick humor is also a favorite of mine.