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What punctuation should I use for "Can you imagine"?

1) And then, can you imagine, I saw a monkey in this tree!

or

2) And then... Can you imagine? I saw a monkey in this tree!

or

3) And then, can you imagine? I saw a monkey in this tree!

or

4) And then can you imagine I saw a monkey in this tree?

or

what?

2 Answers 2

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1) And then, can you imagine, I saw a monkey in this tree!

This sentence is fine. Questions, if asked with the right inflection, do not need to end with a question mark. Also here, can you imagine is being used as a parenthetical aside.

2) And then... Can you imagine? I saw a monkey in this tree!

This is also fine. It is actually three sentences.

3) And then, can you imagine? I saw a monkey in this tree!

This, too, is fine—if interpreted as two sentences.

4) And then can you imagine I saw a monkey in this tree?

While acceptable, a more common punctuation of this variation would be to put a comma after then—and probably to add that after imagine. (However, that last change would be more than just a punctuation change. So, if you're looking purely for punctuation variations, this could be the least common of sentences as it is.)


Here are some other variations:

And then (Can you imagine?) I saw a monkey in this tree!
And then—can you imagine?—I saw a monkey this tree!

As the other answer indicates, this is just a matter of choice.


If you want to consider some different phrases:

Imagine it—I saw a monkey in this tree!
And then I saw a monkey in this tree! Can you believe it?
I can't believe it! I saw a monkey in this tree.

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Punctuation is context-dependent. In a personal letter you have the liberty to write:

Could that have been the rare flying monkey???!!!

In a transcript of formal testimony before a senate subcommittee assessing the suitability of a candidate for the highest court in the land you might find just a single exclamation point and a single question mark:

I liked beer. I still like beer, senator! Is it a crime to like beer?

or sometimes no exclamation point when the goal is to sound deadpan:

I drank a lot of beer.

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  • So what should I do here?
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 13:22
  • I would imagine, judging from the use of the word you in your sentence, that you're either writing a personal letter or a story. In either case, you are the Emperor of Punctuation.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 13:35

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