Essen Sie Äpfel? vs Essen Sie Äpfel.
Hi. What I mean by this is in the first sentence it's a question 'Essen Sie Äpfel?' 'Are you eating apples'. In the second sentence it's an order to the person 'Essen Sie Äpfel.' 'Eat apples'. Is there a way to distinguish between these two sentences or should I just rely on context?
The punctuation ("?") and the tone of voice (gets higher at the end of the sentence) would indicate a question.
But supposing you've been invited to a mafia boss's lair and he points at the bowl of apples on his desk, you might hear a tone of voice that doesn't make it clear if he's merely asking a question about your eating habits (in a matter-of-fact tone) or commanding you (in a matter-of-fact tone) to eat those apples (because that's how he'll poison you).
I suppose, given the circumstances, I'd tell the mafia boss, "Sorry, I don't like apples much." :)
In real life, I think people would often (in this specific case at least) use a different wording anyway, e.g. "Möchten Sie einen Apfel?" ("Would you like an apple?"), "Nehmen Sie sich doch einen Apfel" ("Have an apple."), "Mögen Sie Äpfel?" ("Do you like (= enjoy eating) apples?") (vs. "Möchten Sie Äpfel?" = "Would you like (some) apples?"); and if it's an imperative, I think they'd more likely tell you to eat an apple, not apples ("Essen Sie einen Apfel!").
But, yes, if you're unsure, e.g. when your doctor says, "Well, your [blood parameter] doesn't look too good. Essen Sie Äpfel", then you'd just have to ask. Or, "Kommen Sie mit auf die Feier" ("(Will you) Come along to the party").