Does the sentence "Aren't they pretty!" mean "They are pretty."?

  • The exclamative (negative) form aks for a confirmation of the other person so that this one gives the opposite opinion: aren't they pretty!Yes, they are. — If the answer is negative, then the other person confirms what has been said before by the original speaker. (In this case: no, there aren't.) – Alejandro Feb 26 '16 at 19:49

With the exclamation mark, it does mean that the speaker thinks "they are pretty" and expresses it out.

If it were written with a question mark ("Aren't they pretty?") it would be a question, still suggesting the same thought, but perhaps looking for confirmation from the listener.

Note, however, that in some cases the negative question is a request for confirmation of a negative belief - which has the opposite meaning. For example, "aren't you coming?" may suggest that I suspect you are not coming.

You can find a longer discussion here.

  • It may be helpful for the last example to consider "Aren't you coming" as expanding to "Are you not coming?". Similarly, "Aren't they pretty" expands out to be "Are they not pretty?" or perhaps "They are pretty, are they not?". Sometimes with negative questions like this, the asker is challenging the group with "this is my opinion, does anyone disagree?" looking for confirmation that their opinion is shared, and sometimes this will be asked rhetorically with no reply expected (this is the form that is often followed my an exclamation mark when written). – kwah Mar 25 '16 at 10:53

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