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Did you see what I did there?

Is this a rhetorical question? I think yes and no depending on the context like for example

He shot the ball right into the basket and exclaimed, "Did you see what I did there?"

I think this implies I was present (and witnessed) at the time of the happening and obviously saw the ball being shot

But on the other hand,

A little boy did a little trick and ran towards his mom who was sitting across the park and exclaimed "Mom did you see what I did there?"

But this this does not directly imply Mom being present there at the moment and does not make it obvious that she did or did not see what the little boy did there.


I encountered this question while reviewing negating-the-sentence type questions the question asked was

Did you see what I did there? (Negate)

Now if this was taken to be rhetorical, I could've just said

Didn't you see what I did there?

Notice this does not change the meaning of the sentence (because Didn't you see what I did there? is already rhetorical)

And if not, I will have to say

Did you not neglect what I did there?

This does not sound good so probably rhetorical? Or the negation is independent of what kind of question is posed.

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  • Consider a "high-and-mighty" person who feels he's been insulted. He might say How dare you? Do you know who I am? Personally, I think the first three words are definitely a rhetorical question, but I'm far from convinced that what follows is another. If anything, the context implies the speaker does expect an answer - it's just that the answer he expects is "No" (because if addressee did know speaker's identity, he'd have been more respectful in the first place). May 12 at 11:56

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Rhetorical questions are questions that do not expect an answer. One way to use a rhetorical question is to link to the point you wish to make, thereby answering it yourself; another way is to ask the question in a way that does not invite an answer with the intention that your audience will think about, but not vocalise the answer, as either a teaching point or a memory aid.

Really then, what determines whether a question is rhetorical is not the grammar but how it is used.

If the asker leaves it open to be answered, it isn't rhetorical.

-Did you see what I did there?
-Yes I did see.

One way to use your example rhetorically, to lead into a point your want to make would be:

Did you see what I did there? I shot the ball right into the basket.

Or, if you simply wanted to use it to make your audience think and reach a conclusion yourself, you might say:

Did you see what I did there? Try to remember that.


Regarding your negated versions, the same rule applies - if it can be answered then you can't say the question is always rhetorical. It is all down to how you say it. If you ask the question and wait for an answer then it isn't rhetorical. If you say it in such a way that leaves no room for it to be answered or you answer it yourself then you have used it as a rhetorical question.

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  • I'm not really inclined to see Did you see what I did? as "rhetorical" - but the negated version often would be. Similar to Did you hear what I said? (normally a genuine enquiry, even if "exasperated"), and Didn't you hear what I [just] said? (normally exasperated and rhetorical). May 12 at 12:04
  • @FumbleFingers If it can be answered, then you can't say that it is inherently rhetorical. Didn't you hear? Yes, I heard perfectly well, thank you. As you said, it could be spoken in an exasperated fashion, which I hopefully covered when I explained that it's not what is said but how it is said.
    – Astralbee
    May 12 at 12:21
  • I didn't intend to disagree with anything in your answer text (which I'd already upvoted before commenting). I was simply making the point that negation significantly affects the "rhetorical" status of such utterances. More specifically, if both speaker and addressee know perfectly well that addressee must have heard what was just said, addressee is much more likely to include negation. May 12 at 12:37
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    @FumbleFingers I would perhaps expect the negated examples to be more commonly used in a rhetorical way than not, but the OP's question is "is this rhetorical?" and the correct answer is that no question is uniquely rhetorical.
    – Astralbee
    May 12 at 14:01
  • @Astralbee I also believe that no question is inherently rhetorical without context but then again the question of grammar independent of context arises
    – A name
    May 12 at 16:25
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For your first sentence "did you see what I did there", you are right to say it can be rhetorical or not rhetorical.

"Did you not neglect what I did there" is a very uncommon sentence, and probably rhetorical. But again, rhetorical questions are usually part of more speech, where the person answers his own question. But yes there can be rhetorical questions where the person does not answer, e.g. if someone scored a goal and someone was watching, he might say "Did you see that goal?". Obviously both parties already know the answer is yes.

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  • Yeah that's why I am a bit reluctant about the solution maybe other synonyms might help?
    – A name
    May 12 at 16:26

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