Ni xiang chi fan ma ?

Is it redundant to use ma and a question mark? Doesn't ma make it a question in of itself? I am unclear on the correct approach here.

  • 1
    Yes, you should use a question mark, if you write only pinyin to form a sentence but not "pinyin over characters". Words cannot take over the function of punctuation. – Stan Jun 19 '13 at 16:11
  • 1
    That's non-standard pinyin by the way. Had to read that twice to understand. Tones are not optional. – deutschZuid Jun 23 '13 at 11:17
  • I know they're not-- I just don't know how to make tone marks on my keyboard. With the standard international keyboard layout I can make 2 and 4, but not 1 or 3. – temporary_user_name Jun 23 '13 at 16:42

Questions are always ended with a question mark (?).

General questions may or may not have interrogative particles appearing at the end.

Examples with interrogative particles : 1) 你去过美国**? 2) 这个电影很好看**? 3) 你说**?

Examples w/o interrogative particles : 1) 你来不来? 2) 这道菜好吃不? 3) 我听说小李辞职了? 4) 你从美国来的?

Special questions don't need interrogative particles at the end, as they have questions words like 什么,哪,几,多少,如何,怎么样, etc.

For example: 你去过哪些国家? 你几岁? 你怎么来的?

Question marks are always needed even when questions written pin yin.

  • 2
    Additionally, in modern written Chinese, even without pinyin, you still use question marks. In classical Chinese you will see un-punctuated works, but I'm not sure how uniform that is. A little more reading might be found here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_punctuation – juckele Jun 19 '13 at 20:11

For correctness, question marks are always required.

Are they redundant? Perhaps. If so, they are probably also redundant in English. (eg. "how are you." is clearly intended as a question even without the question mark)

"Ma" turns statements into questions. Think about "ma?" as being similar to "correct?" in English. (eg. "you like coffee, correct?")


In total, the “吗” is one of usual question marks , you can see more words like

么 \ 什么 what do you want ? (你想要什么) 嘛 shall we ? ( 一起嘛? ) ...

and some words in the beginning of sentence, like,

怎么 what happened ! (or use WTF in some context ) 怎么会这样??!! (with surprise) 难道 He's a student, isn't he? 难道他不是学生吗?? (a little guess, but more sure for his statement)

  • 1
    What is your definition of the question mark? – Stan Jun 22 '13 at 14:33
  • Sometimes we (Chinese) like to use specified words to be used in the question sentences. – STATICOR Jun 22 '13 at 15:30
  • 1
    I know. (I'm Chinese too.) However the terminology of isn't question mark, but interrogative particle. By the way, welcome to SE! And as your answers may mislead foreigners if you don't carefully check them, would you please be more careful and serious and rigorous before posting an answer? :) – Stan Jun 22 '13 at 16:10
  • I don't see an answer to the question: When writing pin yin, should you use a question mark in sentences using “ma”? – Becky 李蓓 Dec 11 '19 at 11:06

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