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Unit 43. Finding Out or Making Sure?

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Questions (1)

Unit 43; Part A

When we ask a question, we might be trying to find out information that we don't already know. Alternatively, we might ask a question in order to make sure that information we think we know is, in fact, correct.

Finding out questions usually end with a falling tone:

          WHAT part of SPAIN were you in ?    HOW much ARE they ?

note.jpgNote: Because wh- questions are ofen used to find out information, they often, although not always, end with a falling tone.


Making sure questions usually end with a rising or fall-rising tone
(for the difference see B):
          was BRIan there ?    or: was BRIan there ?
          DOESn't she WORK with you ?    or:   DOESn't she WORK with you ?

note.jpgNote: Because yes-no questions are often used to make sure, they often, although not always, end with a rising or fall-rising tone.


However, wh- questions can have a rising or fall-rising tone when they are making sure, and yes-no question can have a falling tone when they are fnding out:

         WHEN'S your birthday ? -"a rising tone shows that I'm checking the date; it might be polite to suggest that I do know but have temporarily forgotten.

         Have you SEEN her recently ? - I don't know whether you have or not

Unit 43; Part B

43.1.jpgIn making sure questions we can usually use a fall-rising tone or a rising tone with little difference in meaning. However, a fall-rising tone often sounds more polite than a rising tone. In particular, a fall-rising tone is often preferred in questions asked for social reasons; that is, mainly to be polite and friendly rather than to check information (see also Unit 48C):

                Do you WANT to take your COAT off ?
                Are you SURE you can MANage that ?

Unit 43; Part C

Other kinds of questions can also be used to produce a reply from a hearer. In these, too, we use a falling tone to find out and a rising (or fall-rising) tone to make sure. For example, sentences which ask for assistance with would you mind, perhaps or I wonder usually have a falling tone:
       Would you MIND holding THIS ?    I WONder if you could HELP me ?

note.jpgNote: Wh- and yes-no questions used to ofer assistance ofen have a falling tone as this sounds more genuine, and therefore more polite, than a rising or fall-rising tone (see also Unit 48C):
can I HELP you ?    WHAT can I DO for you ?

Statements which are intended to produce a reply often have a rising tone because they are usually asking for confrmation of something we think we already know:

        You've FINished alREADy ?    You HAVen't even STARted ?

 



Exercises

flag.jpgListen to each question and decide whether the speaker is finding out (with a falling tone) or making sure (with a rising tone). Underline your answer.
Key.1 making sure
2 finding out
3 making sure
4 finding out
5 finding out
6 making sure
7 making sure
8 finding out

Example: Who are they playing next week?
1    Were the police involved?
2    Are you feeling okay now?
3    Don't we turn left here?
4    Why didn't you phone me earlier?
5    Have you discussed it with your parents yet?   
6    How do you get the top off? 
7    Did I see you in town on Saturday?  
8    What happened after that? 
finding out  / making sure
finding out 
/ making sure
finding out 
/ making sure
finding out 
/ making sure
finding out 
/ making sure
finding out 
/ making sure
finding out 
/ making sure
finding out  / making sure
finding out  / making sure

Now check your answers in the Key. Then say the questions aloud with the same intonation.
flag.jpgJoe and Olivia are going on holiday in the morning, but Joe is excited and can't sleep. Do you think Joe's questions are likely to have a rising tone (put in the box) or a falling tone ()?
Key. Are you aWAKE? ↓
I wonder what TIME it is? ↓
when did you book the TAxi for? ↓
which terminal does the plane LEAVE from? ↑
You don't KNOW?↑
Doesn't PHILip work at the airport? ↑
Are you SURE? ↑
WHAT time is it again? ↑
would you mind if I put the RAdio on? ↓
WHEN'S the taxi coming? ↑

J: Are you awake? О: Mmm.
J: I wonder what time it is? ____ O: Er, four o'clock.
J: When did you book the taxi for? ____ O: Eight.
J: Which terminal does the plane leave from? ____ O: Don't know.
J: You don't know? ____ O: No.
J: Doesn't Philip work at the airport? ____ O: No, Adam.
J: Are you sure? ____ O: Yes.
J: What time is it again? ____ O: Four.
J: Would you mind if I put the radio on? ____ O: No.
J: When's the taxi coming? ____ О: Zzzzz.

Now listen and check your predictions. Then listen again, taking Joe's part. Press 'pause' before each of Joe's questions and read them aloud. Then press 'play' again and compare your pronunciation with what follows. 
flag.jpgListen and decide whether each question is asked mainly for social reasons (with a fall-rising tone) or to make sure (with a rising tone). Underline or .
Key.The last prominent syllable in each question, where the falling or rising tone starts, is in capital letters.
1 Can I get you another DRINK? ↓↑
2 Have you been here beFORE? ↓↑
3 wasn't DON at the meal? ↑
4 Can you see it more CLEARly now? ↑
5 would you like me to FETCH it for you? ↓↑

Example: Is it okay to park here? /
1    Can I get you another drink? /
2    Have you been here before? /
3    Wasn't Don at the meal? /
4    Can you see it more clearly now? /
5    Would you like me to fetch it for you? /

Now check your answers in the Key. Then say the questions aloud with the same intonation.

Follow up: Find a recording of an episode of a 'soap opera', that is, a series about the lives of a particular group of characters. Listen and write down the first ten yes-no and wh- questions that are spoken. Is the last tone in each a rise, a fall, or a fall-rise? Does the information in this unit help you to understand each choice?

 
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