Have you ever been speaking to someone online and wondered what the difference between “?!” and “!?” is?
Today, I want to look at the differences between the two uses of a question mark and exclamation mark. We’ll also analyse when you would use either, what?!?!?!? means on its own, and provide you with lots of examples.
I also want to share with you the long-forgotten “interobang” and other ways to emphasise a question.
What Is The Difference Between !? And ?!
The difference between “?!” and “!?” is they’re used in different situations. !? is for clarifying shocking facts. ?! Is for when you really want to know. However, both are grammatically incorrect to use but they are socially acceptable to use.
When We Use !? Or ?!
Clarify A Shocking Fact!?
The first example of when you might want to use either “!?” is when you want to clarify a shocking fact.
And when I say “shocking”, this is meant very broadly. It can be so good, it shows you. But, it can also be something that shocks you with how saddening or revolting it is.
I could say “You got the promotion!?” but I can also say “You ate a mouldy egg!?”
When We Really Want To Know?!
The main usage of “?!” is to make it clear that the question you’ve just asked is one that you really want an answer to. This isn’t something they should feel free to answer when and if they have the time. It’s something they need to answer as soon as possible, if not immediately. And they don’t get a choice, they need to answer it.
“What time is the show?” means “If you know the time of the show, let me know, if not, I’ll ask someone else.
But “What time is the show?!” means “You will tell me the time of the show right away because I have to know”
What It Means When Someone Texts You “?!?!?!?!?” On It’s
When speaking to someone via social media, you might have them send “?!?!?!?!?”. Not with any words, just a line of exclamation marks and question marks. For some, this may be a little confusing.
If someone sends you “?!?!?!??!”, it means one of two things.
1. What you have just said is so disgusting. It’s incredible that you would actually send me something like that.
2. I’m afraid that doesn’t make sense to me. Please could you explain it further?
17 Examples Of ?! And !?
- “Did you know that the tallest building is in Canada?
The tallest building is in Canada?!”
- “There’s a show tomorrow.
What time is this show?!”
- “When I was seven, I once put four boiled eggs in my mouth!
You put four boiled eggs in your mouth at once!?”
- “I’m coming to work at 7 am tomorrow.
Are you walking or driving!?”
- “When I woke up this morning, it was raining! So I took an umbrella with me.
It was raining in Hawaii?!”
- “I always make sure to drink plenty of water every day.
How many litres of water do you drink in a day?!”
- “Spider-Man 2 came out 22 years ago today.
Spider-Man 2 came out 22 years ago today!?”
- “My favourite actor is John Smith?
Your favourite actor is the guy who assaulted 10 women!?”
- “I like the actor John Smith.
Is he the one who was in that film about dinosaurs!?”
- “Robert Jones is 33 years old today.
Wait. Robert Jones is 5 years older than Sam Gong?!”
- “I made a pie today. It was really good.
What kind of pie?! What did you have inside the pie?!”
- “30 years ago, I started my company. We’re now worth £2 million”
You started your company when you were 19 years old!?”
- “I was younger than you when I started my company.
How old were you when you started your company!?”
- “Seven years ago, I had bones coming out of my knuckles.
That happened the year the last Wolverine movie came out?!”
- “The last time I went to England, King George was still on the Throne
When was the last time you went to England?!”
- “The dinosaurs died out because they produced too much methane
The dinosaurs farted themselves to death!?”
- “My brother dived into molten lava.
Why did he do that!?”
Alternatives To ?! And !?
The Interrobang‽- A Combination Of The Two
If, for whatever reason you don’t want to use “?!” or “!?”, there is one other option for you. And that is the interrobang.
In the past, the punctuation was officially recognised, but today, it’s a relic of the past. However, that’s not to say you are forbidden from trying to bring it back.
As you can see, the interrobang looks a bit like an exclamation mark on top of a question mark. And it has the same effect as writing “?!” or “!?”.
You could say either of these three…
“Why are you here?!”
“Why are you here!?”
“Why are you here‽”
Multiple Question Marks?????
Another alternative to using either of those three is to use more than one question mark. In casual conversations, such as those done via social media, people will often use “??” or even “?????????????”. This isn’t grammatically correct, but who cares?
An Exclamation Mark On It’s Own!
You could simply use “!” instead of “?”. Some scholars say this is fine, but others disagree.
That leaves us with four ways to ask why someone is here.
“Why are you here?!”
“Why are you here!?”
“Why are you here‽”
“Why are you here?????”
“Why are you here!”
Which method is the best is just a matter of personal preference. Some would say they’re all incorrect, so it doesn’t matter either way.
And now you know there isn’t a difference between “?!” and “!?” and in fact, either one of them can be substituted for “‽”, “????” or “!” and the meaning will remain the same.
The way we’re supposed to use punctuation according to scholars and English teachers isn’t always the way we use punctuation in the real world.
What matters is that the person you’re talking to knows what you’re trying to say. Whether that’s “Can you clarify this?” “I really want to know” or “What is wrong with you?”
Next time a grammar snob says “you shouldn’t do that” tell them that it doesn’t matter. And why do they care anyway‽
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.