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Is it appropriate to say, for instance:

  1. This question asks for advice.
  2. This question asks about dogs.
  3. These questions request help.

Or are the acts of asking & requesting actions that only humans can do?

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It's a bit metaphorical and might not stand well (it's a bit pleonastic, the object of asking is always a question), but it's not crazy. Probably would be marked down in an English composition class, but works in everyday talk or metaphorically extenuating circumstances. –  Mitch Jul 1 '13 at 20:16
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@Mitch: I find it hard to believe any teacher would be so "anal" as to object to such a commonplace usage. –  FumbleFingers Jul 1 '13 at 20:26
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In the final analysis. –  Edwin Ashworth Jul 1 '13 at 22:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Almost 200,000 written instances of this question asks suggest that Anglophones in general don't share OP's misgivings about the usage. You might as well ask whether questions can "suggest".

I'm not so keen on this question requests (with only 1880 hits, obviously nor are most others). The assonance sounds clumsy to me, but it smacks more of tautology than undue anthropomorphism.

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In those formulations, I would say the phrasing is strange. What you could say is that:

  • The question demands to be answered
  • The question begs to be answered
  • The question begs for an answer, etc.

That would be a personification, which is a stylistic device best fit for literary fiction, but not altogether wrong even in a formal context - unless you're writing a law, I suppose.

In those precise formulations, in your case, you could reword them as:

  1. This is an inquiry for advice.
  2. This question pertains to dogs.
  3. These questions need help. (if what you want to convey is that they need to be corrected) or These questions ask for help.

The issue with the wording is that the more you go into specifics, the less you're able to "personify" the act of asking. A question can beg to be answered, but the moment you introduce a specific subject to be answered, it reads better if you de-personify the question.

A question can be curious, but it can not have its own interests.

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You don't explicitly say why you find the phrasing "strange", but OP's question implies he's bothered about it because it seems to anthropomorphise the abstract noun question. But surely begging is at least as much a "human" activity as asking or requesting. –  FumbleFingers Jul 1 '13 at 20:36
    
Read my whole post. –  Corina Jul 1 '13 at 22:07
    
I'd say that 'these questions need help' is the strangest of the lot. –  Edwin Ashworth Jul 1 '13 at 22:31
    
It is. Couldn't think of any way to make it sound more acceptable though. –  Corina Jul 1 '13 at 22:45
    
'These are questions that need answering.' However, the OP means 'These are appeals for help.' –  Edwin Ashworth Jul 2 '13 at 21:40

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