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While reading Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, I found (p. 270, inversion section) that:

In spoken American English, exclamations often have the same form as ordinary (non-negative) questions (but with different intonation).

Have you got a surprise coming!

Is it valid if, instead, I make an exclamation with this following style?

Do you have a surprise coming!

Or are there certain ‘question-styled’ exclamations that are considered as legitimate while others just don't? What do you think?

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3 Answers 3

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It's OK! It's often used with an exclamatory word in front as a signal: "Wow, do you have a surprise coming!", or with an intensifier like "really":

"Have you finished your dinner?"

"Wow, you really have finished your dinner!"

Of course, you can't do this with every question. ("What is the square root of sixty-four?") It works with many or most simple "yes or no" questions with stative verbs, however.

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    Thanks. However, I don't understand your second example. Where is the inversion in the exclamation? I see the normal order subject+verb in ‘you really finished your dinner!’
    – tac
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 4:01
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    Edited so that an inversion is present. You can also do this construction without inversions, and I originally did not notice you were asking only about cases in which they are present.
    – BadZen
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 18:28
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    @BadZen I still don't see an inversion. The subject "you" comes before the conjugated verb "have". An inverted version would be, "Wow, have you finished your dinner!"
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 20:37
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Any form of "yes/no" question that I can think of can be used as an exclamation. In writing, the intent is much clearer with exclamation words, and "ever" added in:

Wow, do you ever have a surprise coming! (present simple)
Man, had my staff ever been busy! (past perfect)
Holy cow, would I have ever been in trouble if my boss had walked in! (unreal past conditional)
Holy smokes, was the work ever done badly! (passive voice)

With content questions/"wh"-questions (that's to say, not "yes/no" questions), you can use them as rhetorical questions, which may be understood as exclamations, but they're still questions, not exclamations, and so must be written in question format:

Wow, how much have you grown?
Boy, what does he eat for breakfast?

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  • You're partially right, but this doesn't deserve to be the answer, because it's possible to make exclamations from open questions too! Consider ‘How beautiful are the flowers!’, its structure is not a y/n question and I can think it in both senses. Anyway, was a nice try and the information is useful
    – tac
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 3:38
  • @tac Why don't you think "How beautiful are the flowers" is a rhetorical question? Is that a quote?
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 4:05
  • ‘How beautiful are the flowers?’ ‘How beautiful are the flowers!’, If still you can't see it...
    – tac
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 4:09
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The simple answer is yes. But. Your new version can also be a question, so you haven't really addressed your issue. Consider that "Do you have a package coming?" is a perfectly normal question.

You should also be aware that, depending on situation, some questions are emphatic declarations, but not of the question being asked. For instance, "Did your mother have any children who lived?" does not expect an answer, it's just an insult. Tone of voice matters in common conversation.

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  • How is the issue not addressed? The OP's question is whether any question form can be used as an exclamation, or whether it's limited to specific ones. If the answer is yes, the issue is fully addressed. The OP already knows that "Do you have a package coming?" can be a question, but wants to know if "Do you have a package coming!" and all other question forms can be exclamations.
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 20:42

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