What Is Answering a Question With a Question Called?

It can be frustrating when someone directs a question back at you instead of responding to what you’ve asked.

But is there a term in English to describe this behavior?

We’ve compiled a list of suitable terms below. So, read on!

Words for Answering a Question With a Question

  • Counterquestion
  • Deflection
  • Rhetorical
  • Obfuscation
  • Evasion
  • Diversion


  • A “counterquestion” refers to any instance where you answer a question with another question.
  • When you use a counterquestion to redirect focus or shift blame, this is an example of “deflection.”
  • Sometimes, we use a “rhetorical question” to respond to a probing question sarcastically.

Stick around! In the next section, we’ll discuss our top three terms for answering a question with a question.

Moreover, we’ll use some helpful examples to explain each of our choices.


“Counterquestion” is the most precise word for when you answer a question with a question.

In fact, Merriam-Webster defines a “counterquestion” as “a question asked in response to another question.”

A “counterquestion” has a number of uses.

On the one hand, it can be used to glean more information about the initial question so that you can answer it more accurately.

For example:

Person 1: How many people participated in your study?

Person 2: Do you mean the study conducted in 2011 or the one conducted in 2015?

As it is important to know which study the first person is referring to, the second person has asked a “counterquestion” to create clarity.

You may also use a counter question to distract the other person if they have posed a question that you would rather not answer.

For instance:

Person 1: Do you think I should divorce Jim?

Person 2: Did your mother give you that idea?

As you can see, when asked an uncomfortable question, we might avoid answering by posing a “counterquestion” with the hopes that the other person will forget what they had asked.

There is another term for this practice, which we will discuss next!


Sometimes, a person will use a “counterquestion” to deflect from the original question because they don’t want to answer it.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “deflection” as “something you do or say in order to avoid something such as criticism, blame, or a question being directed at you.”

Therefore, if you answer a question with another question in order to avoid answering the initial question, this is an example of “deflection.”

According to psychology, people use “deflection” to redirect blame or maintain their self-image when they feel as though they are under attack or interrogation.

For example:

Person 1: Would you say he’s a good person?

Person 2: Why do you care so much?

“Deflection” is often an example of a “whataboutism.” This is a logical fallacy whereby a speaker is faced with a difficult question. Thus, instead of addressing it, they raise a different point using a counterquestion.

For instance:

Person 1: Are you concerned about the consequences this Bill you’ve proposed might have on the citizens of this country?

Person 2: Where was all this concern when our enemies were threatening war against us?


According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a “rhetorical question” is “a question, asked in order to make a statement, that does not expect an answer.”

Sometimes, you might respond to a genuine question with a rhetorical one, not because you want to shift the burden of answering onto the other person, but to make a point or indirectly answer the question.

Let’s illustrate this with an example:

Person 1: Why do you always mask your fear with anger?

Person 2: Oh, are you my psychologist all of a sudden?

Although phrased as a question, Person 2 is actually making a statement.

They are implying that the other person is not qualified to understand their emotions or behaviors and shouldn’t act like they are.

Let’s see another example:

Person 1: Are you allowed to carry that?

Person 2: Are you a cop?

In this example, Person 2 is using a rhetorical question to sarcastically imply that Person 1 should mind their business.

After all, they probably know that Person 2 is not, in fact, a police officer.