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https://rachelsenglish.com/questions-intonation/

According to this video, yes-no questions have an intonation that goes up at the end.

Other types have an intonation that goes down.

But if it is a mixed type of question, what should we do?

Example 1

Could you tell me whether you like dogs or cats?

Should the intonation at the end of the sentence go down or go up?

Example 2

Could you tell me whether you like dogs, rabbits, or cats?

Should the intonation at the end of the sentence go down or go up?

Example 3

Could you tell me whether you have stolen things before?

Should the intonation at the end of the sentence go down or go up?

Example 4

Could you tell me whether you have stolen things before or not?

Should the intonation at the end of the sentence go down or go up?

2 Answers 2

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As a British English speaker, I'm not sure that I would always use the same intonations as Rachel does. However, I think the dogs/cats one depends on whether you are asking the other person to choose one.

Would you like some tea or coffee? (Up - offering a hot drink.)

Would you like tea or coffee? (emphasising both words, down at end - asking them to choose.)

(3) and (4) seem to me to be expecting a yes/no answer to start with.

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  • It's the same in American English. Up at the end: do you like any of the listed choices? Down at the end: which one would you prefer? But example four requires choosing one of two mutually exclusive options, so the intonation should fall at the end. Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 2:37
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  1. Up/Down - both acceptable
  2. Down
  3. Up
  4. Down

Tip: try saying it out loud and see which suits best! I do not think there is one way to define whether a question should have an up or down intonation, it is usually a matter of preference and how it sounds.

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