1

'daisy sounded like she had a cold, didn't she?'

is that mean

1) didn't she (sound like she had a cold)?

or

2) didn't she (have a cold)?

what's correct?

1
  • I think #1 is really the only correct way to interpret it. The sentence is fundamentally a very simple subject-verb sentence: (Daisy) (sounded) (like something). The rhetorical part is questioning the truth of the sentence, which is "Daisy sounded like something".
    – stangdon
    Dec 20, 2016 at 18:20

2 Answers 2

3

Much can depend on context, but I would consider such a statement to be a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is a type of figurative language, where a question is posed for effect or to make a point, rather than to elicit an actual answer. Quite often the answer (according to the speaker, at least) is already implicit in the question.

It is generally easy to spot a rhetorical question because of its position in the sentence. It occurs immediately after the comment made and states the opposite of it. The idea again is to make a point more prominent.

  • "It’s too hot today. Isn’t it?"
  • "The actors played the roles well. Didn’t they?"

So, in the case of:

'Daisy sounded like she had a cold, didn't she?'

...the speaker is not asking if Daisy has a cold. He or she believes that Daisy has a cold, and is posing a rhetorical question as a way of drawing attention to the fact that Daisy has a cold.

In other words, your first assumption is closer to the mark.

Rhetorical questions are used quite often in day-to-day speech. For example:

  • Do you know what time it is? (Meaning: You are late.)

  • Who doesn't love pizza? (This question is making the positive point: "Everyone loves pizza!")

  • What have the Romans ever done for us? [Monty Python's Life of Brian] (This question is making the negative point: "The Romans have done nothing for us.")
3
  • I'm not so sure that the question is rhetorical in nature, the speaker could be asking for confirmation. "I was talking to Daisy on the phone and she sounded like she had a cold, didn't / hadn't she?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 20, 2016 at 10:45
  • @Mari-LouA: It is indeed possible. Without further context, it's hard to say definitively either way.
    – mike
    Dec 20, 2016 at 11:07
  • It's also worth noting that the rising inflection usually present at the ends of questions isn't often present in these. Where it is it's more of an indication that the speaker expects a response.
    – Muzer
    Dec 20, 2016 at 11:30
1

It's closer in meaning to the first one. The "didn't she" part is seeking confirmation from the addressee regarding the statement that preceded it.

1
  • I am sure there are simpler ways of saying the same thing. Pity... I would have +1
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 20, 2016 at 7:46

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