Sometimes, you might find yourself asking a question that you already know the answer to. While this might seem like a pointless thing to do, there are a few reasons for it. This article will look at synonyms for describing this type of question.
Which Terms Can Describe When You Ask A Question You Already Know The Answer To?
There are a few words that we’ll use to describe a question you already know the answer to. They include:
- Rhetorical question
- Testing the water
- Vapid question
The preferred version is “rhetorical question” because most native speakers understand the meaning that comes with it. We might ask a rhetorical question when we already know the answer to something, and it uses a rhetorical device to draw attention to the answer.
We’ll start by going over what rhetorical questions are and how we might be able to use them.
A rhetorical question is something you might ask someone when you already know the answer. We might do this to try and get them to understand what the answer is without having to outright say anything about it.
Whether we’re trying not to insult their intelligence or we’re trying to show them that the answer is obvious, we can use rhetorical questions when we know the answer. We might also use rhetorical questions when we didn’t expect somebody to answer something.
If we come up with a relatively challenging question, we might simply be leaving it out in the open for people to ponder. However, if someone already has a good answer, they might surprise you with whatever they say, thus answering your rhetorical question.
Generally, a rhetorical question is a common idea to come across in English. Most native speakers know what the word means and will also use rhetorical questions when asking other people things that they already know the answer to.
While it’s not always the best practice, and some people might be offended and think you’re insulting their intelligence, rhetorical questions are a great way to get a response from somebody (depending on the situation where you already know the answer to something).
You might see “rhetorical questions” written as follows:
- I’m going to ask you a rhetorical question, and I want you to try and figure out why I’m asking it, okay? I don’t need an answer.
- Who did this? I already know which one of you it was, which is why I asked a rhetorical question; I just need you to own up to it.
- Can you stop asking me rhetorical questions and say what you really mean? I’m tired of having to dance around you.
Testing The Water
Next, we’ll look at “testing the water,” which is a type of idiom we can use to talk about asking a question we already know the answer to.
When we test the water, we’re trying to gather information about something (by testing the group of people we’re in). We’ll usually have the answer to the question, and we’ll want to see whether other people can answer it as well.
Testing the water works especially well when somebody has done something wrong. If we know who did it but they haven’t owned up yet, testing the water with a simple “who did it” question is a great way to see whether they’ll own up to their mistakes.
We might also test the waters when we’re trying to gauge other people’s reactions to a question. We might have a good idea of the answer, but if we’re not 100% certain, then we might test the waters by asking our friends to see how they respond to it instead.
You can see “testing the water” written in the following ways:
- I’m just testing the water, so if I step out of line with one of my questions, feel free to let me know.
- I’m going to test the water to see which one of them might have done it. I’ll let you know what I find out from them.
- He was testing the water and caught me off guard! I answered his question, leaving me exposed as the one who messed up.
It can also use different verb forms for “testing” (i.e., “test” or “tests”), which change based on the pronoun or tense that you use.
Finally, we’ll cover vapid questions, which are specific types of questions that we already know the answer to.
Vapid questions are uninteresting or unimportant questions that add no value to the overall discussion. Usually, we already know the answer to the question; we just didn’t think about the answer before we asked it.
The definition of “vapid,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “showing no intelligence or imagination.”
Typically, if you speak before you think, you’re prone to asking vapid questions. You do this by asking a question that adds nothing special to a discussion and can be answered quickly with a bit of thought or focus.
You may also ask a vapid question when the answer is staring you in the face, but you haven’t figured it out yet. In these cases, you’ll often realize the answer as soon as you finish asking and apologize to everyone for asking such a useless and vapid question.
You might see it written in the following ways:
- He keeps asking me vapid questions, and I don’t understand why he thinks they’re going to be useful for him.
- Sorry, I don’t mean to ask you vapid questions! I’m really not on my A-game today.
- That was a vapid question, and it won’t add anything of note to this discussion.
Why Do You Ask Questions To Which You Already Know The Answer?
While there aren’t many great synonyms to use, it would still help to know why we might ask a question like this in the first place. There are a few reasons that we might come across, which we’ll list.
- You want to draw attention to the answer.
- You realized what the answer was after asking the question.
- You want someone to admit to their mistake.
Draw Attention To Answer
First, let’s look at drawing attention to the answer. Why might we want to do this?
The most obvious reason is that we want everyone to be on the same page as us. While we might already have the answer in mind, everyone around us might not be entirely caught up on what’s going on.
To help catch people up, you might ask the question in such a way that people realize what the answer is with you. That way, you don’t have to outright say that you already knew the answer, and you can let other people work it out too.
Drawing attention to the answer is a way of bringing everyone else into the mix without telling them that you already knew the answer to the question.
Realizing The Answer After
The next way (and perhaps one of the more common ones) is when we figure out the answer after asking the question. Usually, we don’t even give the responder enough time to answer it as we figure out that the question was stupid and correct ourselves.
In this way, the question can be known as a “who’s buried in Grant’s tomb question.” This refers to the tomb where Ulysses S. Grant is buried, and people once asked this question to find out who was buried there without realizing that his name was already part of the tomb.
You might realize once you finish asking a question that the answer was part of the question already. In this way, you might correct yourself and apologize for asking the question because you realize that it was foolish to do.
Admitting A Mistake
If somebody has done something wrong, you usually have to get them to own up. It’s best to ask these kinds of questions in informal situations because they’re best done within friend groups or families.
Sometimes, even if you don’t see the person who did something, you might have a good idea of who it was based on their method or previous discussions. If this is the case, you might want to ask a leading question that you already know the answer to because you want them to own up.
We might try to force somebody to admit a mistake or own up to wrongdoing by asking, “who did this?” even when we know the answer.
Is It OK To Ask A Question You Already Know The Answer To?
Generally, it’s okay to ask a question you already know the answer to. We showed you all the ways of doing so above, and all of them are fine as long as you use them correctly it.
If you already know the answer to a question, you might have made a mistake and not realized the answer until it was too late, or you might be trying to get everyone to figure out what the answer is.
While some people don’t agree with the practice of asking a question you already know the answer to, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with doing so.
You may also like: 11 Words For Someone Who Asks A Lot Of Questions
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.