Excuse me (?/!)

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Would somebody be so kind as to clarify for me whether or not 'excuse me' merits a question mark?

I've seen 'Excuse me?' ...and... 'Excuse me!'.

Many thanks in advance to whoever replies.
 

rewboss

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Feb 25, 2006
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English Teacher
Usually, a question mark indicates that the speaker is not actually asking for forgiveness, but is indicating disbelief or offended sensibilities; the phrase is usually spoken with rising intonation. With an exclamation mark, it's usually asking forgiveness for something that has been done, or a polite way to attract attention, and is spoken with falling intonation.

"Well, I think you're a bare-faced liar!"
"Excuse me? Did you just call me a liar?"

"Hey! Get out of here!"
"Oh, excuse me! I didn't realise you were in there."
 
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