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Should I prefer asker or questioner for a person who asked a question?

Another question and answer on this site give a link that asker is quite legitimate. On the other hand I wonder whether questioner can be used for any person who asks a question rather than an interrogator.

P.S. The context can be taken as referring to the people who ask questions on this site.

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4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I think the two words carry different meanings.

An asker is someone who wants to satisfies their needs of information, money, services, etc. I would say, the action of asking is usually for the sake of what is asked for. You need the answer for what it is.

Questioning, on the other hand, is mainly about information. Moreover, it is to get something more than the expected response. The purpose of a questionnaire, for example, is not merely the answers, but actually to research something else. In addition, the word questioner gives the feeling of power.

I'm going to ask him

versus.

I'm going to question him

As a result, I would say, someone who asks a question to know the answer is an asker whilst someone who asks a question for not mainly the response itself (like for testing the answerer) is a questioner.

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But what about "I'm going to ask him a question"? –  Mark Beadles Mar 6 '12 at 13:16
    
@MarkBeadles I think the last part of the answer answers your question; it depends. –  Mostafwani Mar 6 '12 at 13:43
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EDIT: I have received a lot of commentary on this, enough legitimate commentary that I decided to take a closer look at my answer. The results were mildly surprising to me. See below.


Either one has the right meaning and does not really carry bad connotations in my own intuition, although others have commented that questioner connotes an interrogation and that they much preferred asker.

I found this unusual, since questioner is by far the more common word in general English use:

A Google Ngram query for 'asker, questioner' reveals that 'questioner' is found overwhelmingly more often than 'asker'. In addition to the Google Ngram, a query against the BYU Corpus of Contemporary American English gives the following relative rankings:

WORD 1 (W1): ASKER (0.05)
WORD 2 (W2): QUESTIONER (19.53)

While the British National Corpus query gives:

WORD 1 (W1): ASKER (0.01) NONE
WORD 2 (W2): QUESTIONER (90.00)

At this point, I would've recommended you stick with questioner in most cases. And that answer was accepted, but it was not popular, and I wondered why. Dictionaries and thesauri did not show any evidence that either was more or less used, or had any particular connotation. I investigated whether it was a UK-US difference, but found no evidence of that either; the commenters did not have a geographic bias that I could discern.

Then I realized I had the perfect corpus right at hand: Stack Exchange itself! So I ran a search query against all SE sites. And to my surprise:

site:stackexchange.com asker About 24,600 results
site:stackexchange.com questioner About 3,260 results

And there you have it. In general English usage across all contexts, questioner is favored. But in Internet-based interactive context like that found on this -- a question and answer site -- asker is used more often by far.

Why is this so? I suspect that is because a query limited to StackExchange also limited the context to a more neutral or descriptive use. Alternatively, it may be that SE users come from a subset of the population -- generational? gender? education? -- that favors asker as more neutral.

Since you specifically say, "The context can be taken as referring to the people who ask questions on this site" then I must say that, contra my earlier thoughts, asker is the answer.

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@MarkBeadles The problem with your ngram plot is that it provides no context. Questioner, at least to me, is someone conducting an interrogation, whereas an asker would be someone in a lecture hall audience, or someone conducting a survey. However, that's just my idiolect talking... –  msanford Mar 5 '12 at 21:39
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@Mahnax, that meta question is largely irrelevant to simple claims like questioner occurring far the more commonly than asker. (The meta question would become completely irrelevant if a "in books published between..." clause were added to claim.) –  jwpat7 Mar 5 '12 at 22:43
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@jwpat7 I have no particular objection to this use of an NGram. I'm just putting it out there; hence the lack of explanation. By the way, the downvote was not me, in case that's what you're thinking. –  Mahnax Mar 5 '12 at 22:57
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The upvotes for msanford's distinction clearly suggest it's widely understood, at least by ELU users. Contextless NGrams tell us nothing about that distinction, and I'd have probably downvoted the original of this answer if it simply said "both are fine, but questioner is more common". But I'm looking at it for the first time post-edit (and following an inspired choice of research method), and I think this is a truly stellar "canonical answer"! –  FumbleFingers Mar 6 '12 at 4:05
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Asker doesn’t sound right; questioner is ok.

But perhaps the word you are looking for is querent, defined by the OED as a person who asks or inquires.

Another applicable word would an interrogator, although that somewhat suggests sharp questions.

Lastly, there’s enquirer.

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Seeker is the most-commonly used, per Ngram search, in a comparison between:

  1. seeker
  2. seacher
  3. questioner
  4. enquirer
  5. asker

(listed by popularity of usage)

"Researcher" exceeds all of these usages by several orders of magnitude.

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Puzzlingly, seeker seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour around the time the Harry Potter books were first published. –  Edwin Ashworth Oct 16 '12 at 16:26
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