‘I wonder if’: volatile, rhetorical and dubitative interrogative sentences

How many doubts do you have regarding the proper use of sentences in Italian? Countless, right? Who knows how many questions you ask yourselves on grammar, on verbal tenses and moods and on the context in which a sentence is to be pronounced properly. So many questions! Speaking of questions, did you know that not all Italian interrogative sentences are used as questions with the intent to get a response? Sometimes a question’s purpose is not to ask for information from another person but to express our opinion or our uncertainty, to exhort it, encourage it or involve the person. We speak of the volatile, rhetorical and dubitative interrogative sentences. Let’s see what they are and shake off all doubts.


The Interrogative volatile questions are used to express advice, exhortation, a prohibition, the questioner’s desire to impose his/her will on someone. They are often preceded by the adverb “not” and therefore expressed in a negative form. A few examples? Non dovresti smetterla di mangiare patatine fritte? (Shouldn’t you stop eating potato chips?), Non pensi che dovremmo iscriverci in palestra? (Don’t you think we should enrol in a gym?), Non credi sia ora di uscire per andare al cinema? (Don’t you think it’s time to get out to go to the movies?), Perché non provi ad imparare a cucinare? (Why don’t you try to learn how to cook?).

The rhetorical interrogative are sentences that, even if placed as a question, provide only a positive response (a rather obvious one too) and are therefore something more like statements expressed with a question mark. Sometimes they also represent a form of rebuke. We often use the adverbs “no”, “not true”, “but”. For example: Non ti è piaciuto il film, vero? (You did not like the film, right?), Era noioso quel libro, non è vero? (That book was boring, was it not?), Non credi che Marco sia troppo sfacciato? (Don’t you think that Mark is too impudent?), Si gela oggi, vero? (It’s freezing today, right?), Non credi che questo vestito mi stia troppo largo? (Don’t you think this dress is too large for me?), Ma non dovevamo vederci alle 11? (Weren’t we supposed to meet at 11?), Non dovevi accompagnarmi a lezione di danza? (Weren’t you supposed to accompany me to dance class?), Cosa c’è di meglio di un giro per negozi per far passare il malumore? (What’s better than a shopping tour to get rid of a bad mood?).


What is the interrogative dubitative? These too are questions that do not require an actual answer, but in fact express a doubt, a concern, a guess. They can be introduced by the particle “che” (that) followed by a verb in the subjunctive tense: Mi sembra di aver sentito una macchina in arrivo. Che sia mamma? (I think I heard a car coming. Can it be mom?); Mi è arrivato un messaggio. Che sia di Andrea? (I received a message. Can it be Andrea?); To express uncertainty about a situation you can use the infinitive or the conditional: for example, Che dire rispetto al lavoro di Chiara?, Cosa dovrei pensare della dichiarazione di Daniele?, Dove andare?, Dove trovare riparo? (What to say about Chiara’s work?, What should I think of Daniel’s statement?, Where to go?, Where to go to find shelter ?). You can also use the future indicative: Che ore saranno? (What time could it be?).

We clarified some doubts regarding these interrogative sentences that require no answer, have we not? We really hope so.

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