An ELT Glossary : Rhetorical Questions

A rhetorical question is one which does not actually expect an answer but is used to allow the speaker/writer to make a point. They are common in persuasive texts, including such genres as political speeches and letters to newspapers where the speaker/writer wants to express an opinion. The opinion is implicit in the question :

Examples from political speeches

  • Can anyone look at the record of this Administration and say, "Well done"? Can anyone compare the state of our economy when the Carter Administration took office with where we are today and say, "Keep up the good work"? Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today say, "Let's have four more years of this"? Ronald Reagan 1980
  • Do you really think Donald Trump has the temperament to be commander-in-chief? Hilary Clinton 2016
  • Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Barack Obama 2014

Examples from letters to newspapers

  • Who could not admire this sentence: “A blonde amoral blob of self-pity in desperate search of a single principle over which he could resign to become the hero of his own narrative”?  The Guardian 11.12.2018
  • Ask yourself, how would Donald Trump respond if the CFO of Apple were arrested in Hong Kong and awaiting extradition to a country that disagreed with Apple’s business practices? The Globe and Mail 8.12.2018
  • We need demonstrations to oppose this cruel welfare reform; who is going to do it? Perhaps I should? The Independent 25.11.2018