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?

  • 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
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 20:16
  • 3
    @Mitch: I find it hard to believe any teacher would be so "anal" as to object to such a commonplace usage. Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 20:26
  • 1
    In the final analysis. Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 22:27

2 Answers 2


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.

  • If wine can drink well, surely questions can ask well — and answer. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 1:09
  • @tchrist: This guy says he found it hard to say whether CULD actually accounts for the sentence This (book) reads well. Apparently, according to their description of the construction, it should be This book reads good. But I couldn't be doing with This question asks good any more than It asks well. Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 13:24

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.

  • 1
    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. Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 20:36
  • Read my whole post.
    – Corina
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 22:07
  • I'd say that 'these questions need help' is the strangest of the lot. Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 22:31
  • It is. Couldn't think of any way to make it sound more acceptable though.
    – Corina
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 22:45
  • 'These are questions that need answering.' However, the OP means 'These are appeals for help.' Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 21:40

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