Compound Question

When someone asks two questions and uses “or” in between, there are two options: Put a comma/semicolon before the “or” that separates the two sentences and a question mark at the end; or make it into two questions. When the questions are lengthy or there is a lot of other punctuation, it is probably best to break them into two separate sentences.

…Was it on Monday, or did you do that later in the week?

…Was that on Monday, September 5, 2017? Or did you and your husband, Bill, do that on Sunday, the 11th?
…Did you notice whether the man you were talking to was wearing a heavy jacket? Or did you not pay any attention to the clothing he had on that afternoon?

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Comments 4

  1. Please explain further when you would have a semicolon at the end of a question. I’ve never heard of that. You’re saying that you have the option to put a comma/semicolon at the end of the first question but before the “or” of the second question. Please give an example with the semicolon you’re talking about.

    1. Post
      Author

      It would occur only in a compound sentence, where both sides of the sentence are asking a question.

      …Did John, your brother, accompany you; or did you, your mom, and your dad go?

      I do not think this is the first choice, but it is a possibility. The first choice would be to make it two questions.

      Hope this helps.

      Margie

  2. Or, for example: is it possible that you and Mary went to the party by yourselves; or, is it conceivable that everyone, including you and Mary, carpooled to the party?

    Is that a valid example?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi, Starr.

      There is no comma after the “or.” The comma before “or” is for the compound sentence. The comma before “or” might change to a semicolon because of the other commas.

      Hope you are doing well.

      Margie

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