Functions and Examples of Echo Questions

Echo questions repeat all or part of what has just been said. Echo question consists in various forms; the repeat please questionsOpens in new window are a type of echo question.

As earlier said, echo questions can have the function of confirming a previous utterance, as the case is in 1a), or requesting clarification of a previous utterance, as in 1b).

  • 1a)  John: I’ll fax it to Elizabeth right now.
    Bill: You’ll fax it to her?
  • 1b)  Xochitl: Take a look at this.
    Liam: (Take a look) at what?

Echo questions are also used to request that a previously posed question, or some part of a question, be repeated. In 2), Bill presumably did not hear what Kim said or he is surprised that Kim would ask the question.

  • 2)  Kim: Did you borrow my car keys?
  • Bill: Did I borrow your car keys?

If the intonation pattern of an echo question arises and remains level throughout as in 3), this lends a pensive quality to the question. It is as if the speaker were pausing, seeking time to come up with an answer.

The intonation in this case signals that the speaker does not expect a response. He or she is echoing the question aloud while thinking about how to answer it.

  • 3) Susan: And what do you think of this slogan?
  • Alan: What do I think about it? Well, my initial reaction is …