From Super User:

I just installed Win7 on my non-PC (ahem) and was struck by how many times the Windows installer reboots during installation. It even tells you on the screen during installation that the computer will reboot multiple times.

I know MS must have a good reason for this, but I'm completely baffled why this is necessary? Installation simply writes to the disk, and because the system has booted off the DVD, it already has full write access to the target hard drive partition. Is Windows in fact installing a preliminary disk image and then booting off of that instead of the DVD in order to speed up installation? (Though that then begs the question, why 2 reboots?)

Edit: Changed "3+ reboots" to "2 reboots". It probably seemed like more than that because I had to do an extra reboot initially (back to my host OS) to fix the format of my partition, and then there were the subsequent reboots for windows updates.

(Emphasis added by me)

It seems to me like "raises the question" would fit better than "begs the question" in this case. What is correct?


4 Answers 4


"To beg the question" means "to raise the question," or "to invite an obvious question."
From the context of that sentence, I would think that "beg the question" is used with the second meaning I reported.

The NOAD reports the following notes about the meaning of "beg the question":

The original meaning of the phrase beg the question belongs to the field of logic and is a translation of the Latin term petitio principii, literally meaning "laying claim to a principle" (that is, assuming something that ought to be proved first), as in the following sentence: "by devoting such a large part of the anti-drug budget to education, we are begging the question of its significance in the battle against drugs." To some traditionalists, this is still the only correct meaning. However, over the last 100 years or so, another, more general use has arisen: "invite an obvious question," as in "some definitions of mental illness beg the question of what constitutes normal behavior." This is by far the more common use today in modern standard English.

  • "to invite an obvious question" IS a correct meaning for that?!? Do you have a source for this?
    – John
    Mar 12, 2011 at 23:38
  • 1
    @John: The reference I have is the New Oxford American Dictionary, third edition. To notice that I didn't write "to invite an obvious question" IS the correct meaning of "to beg the question"; as a matter of fact, the dictionary reports two meanings for "to beg the question", and both the meanings equally apply.
    – apaderno
    Mar 12, 2011 at 23:49
  • 1
    ' "To beg the question" means "to raise the question," or "to invite an obvious question." ' is essentially giving one definition. But then you go on to give the traditional meaning in the block-quote. The answer needs clarification. Feb 13, 2018 at 23:30

"raises the question" is correct. "begs the question" is a logical fallacy of circular reasoning.

"prompts the question" might be even better.

  • That's what I thought, but a comment to that effect was responded to in a manner that made a mod nuke the comment thread.
    – John
    Mar 12, 2011 at 23:36
  • Thanks for sharing that "Begging the Question / Circular Reasoning" Logical Fallacy link, which is very educational. One question though. Could it be that the "begs the question" in common English (i.e. outside of a Logic classroom) would also be largely the synonym of "raises the question" or "prompts the question", which all mean "to invite an obvious question" (which are all different than "to simply asks a question", by the way)?
    – RayLuo
    Jan 21, 2021 at 6:08

The phrase "begs the question" is abused in this fashion so often that it is becoming an accepted usage. If you're a prescriptivist, it's absolutely incorrect; if you're a descriptivist, it's almost standard.

  • 1
    According to kiamlaluno's answer, "is becoming an accepted usage" should really be "has become an accepted usage". Mar 13, 2011 at 3:07
  • 7
    I haven't accepted it yet!! ;-)
    – Hellion
    Mar 13, 2011 at 3:12
  • It's funny. For me, I had never heard of the logical fallacy so I didn't know there was a second meaning. When I learned it I stopped using the phrase "incorrectly" but then I realized that my struggle was futile. Anyway, it's perfectly fine for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings; context and all that. But keep fighting the good fight, if you must :) Mar 13, 2011 at 3:18
  • 3
    If you're a prescriptivist, it's absolutely incorrect - that depends what you happen to prescribe ;-)
    – psmears
    Mar 13, 2011 at 9:07
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    +1, Hellion, Ghost of Christmas-past, here. I am neither a prescriptivist nor a descriptivist (more a, vacillationist), so the problem I have with using "begs the question" as a stand-in for "raises the question," is simply that such usage renders an elegant phrase impotent, with the concomitant loss of nuance and precision.
    – user98990
    Mar 13, 2015 at 11:21

The comments above are correct; begging the question is one of the most common logical fallacies. Therefore if you use it to mean 'raises the question', you are using it incorrectly. Thus, to say this or that begs the question you are actually making a statement that (this or that) is assuming something. It's actually half a statement because you then have to add a question at the end which is unanswered. There are several ways to correctly say 'raises the question', 'begs...' isn't one of them. If you use the term incorrectly, you water down, erode and confuse the real meaning.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. You seem very sure about "the real meaning"; could you provide some evidence in the way of definition, source or published examples? It's always a good idea to offer some supporting information with your answers, especially ones as authoritative as this.
    – JHCL
    Oct 20, 2015 at 8:25

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