Conflictual Question (definition)


a question “where all the possible replies have potentially negative consequences, but where nevertheless a reply is still expected”. (Bull & Wells, 2012: 38)

Also known as

communicative avoidance–avoidance conflict


This was the first question asked by Jeremy Paxman when he interviewed Tony Blair in 2005. This is a conflictual question because an affirmative answer might be a sign of weakness in the Prime Minister, a negative answer might be a sign of arrogance.

JP: Tony Blair. Prime Minister,
    is there anything you would like to apologise for?

Further examples


Bull, P. & Wells, P. (2012) Adversarial discourse in Prime Minister’s questions. Journal of Language and Social Psychology,  31(1), 30-48

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