I was questioned.

cool-jupiter

Senior Member
Japanese
Hello, native speakers. I just came across a seemingly weird sentence that goes like the following.

For this survey, nearly 5,000 people were questioned.

The survey is related to the age at first marriage. I just can't be sure, but the verb "question" is usually used when the topic involves some criminal element. "The police questioned the man who happened to look like the suspect of the case." I figure this sentence is OK.

What I'd like to know is whether it is possible to use the verb "question" in an academic or officialm formal context. Thank you.
 
  • london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I have to admit I find this a little odd in the context of a survey. I tend to associate 'to be questioned' with crime suspects too. Do you know if the person who wrote this is a native speaker?
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    You would usually find it followed by a preposition (e.g. questioned about their habits).
    But I don't see why it shouldn't be used in a formal context.
    If it means interviewed, this word should be used. But here it means this question was put to almost 5000 people.
     

    cool-jupiter

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    london calling - Thanks for your comment. I'm relieved to learn that I'm not the only one. Honestly, I have no idea who wrote this. This is an excerpt from a English workbook published in Japan. I bet this was written by a Japanese author.

    e2efour - I felt the same way, too. However, I wasn't sure if it's possible to adopt this verb in a formal context, so your feedback is really helpful. Thank you. And from what I read in Japanese, the intended meaning here is "to be asked" or "to be interviewed." So, I for one will go by your hunch and replace it with interview. Again, thanks a million!
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I would definitely say "nearly 5000 people were interviewed" in the context of a survey. Even if one were to say "were questioned about their habits" I would think that whoever is asking the questions thinks that the interviewees may have....questionable habits.:D
     

    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    I would definitely say "nearly 5000 people were interviewed" in the context of a survey. Even if one were to say "were questioned about their habits" I would think that whoever is asking the questions thinks that the interviewees may have....questionable habits.:D
    To me "interview" sounds far too formal for a survey/questionnaire.
     

    cool-jupiter

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    london calling - Thanks. I've come across "question" as a verb many times and they have all something to do with criminal stuff or something questionable. I'm relieved to hear that a native speaker is with me on this.

    Franco-filly - Actually, I find "interview" to be suitable because the original sentence is based on some kind of governmental report.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I wouldn't use "interviewed" unless I knew that the people surveyed were actually interviewed—meaning that conversations took place between the people surveyed and the people conducting the survey, whether in person or by telephone. That may not be so; the survey may have been conducted by postal mail, by e-mail, or at a website. I've participated in surveys done in all of these ways.

    Given that we don't know how the survey was conducted, questioned is in fact the best choice in the sentence structure given.

    But another way to state the same fact, avoiding that word, would be:
    Nearly 5000 people participated in this survey.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I don't see anything out of the ordinary with the sentence. I agree with Parla. This example from The Lancet (1973) seems to me to be typical. "Interviewed" would seem odd here, I think.

    "One hundred male patients with squamous carcinoma of the larynx and one hundred matched controls with various non-malignant diseases were questioned about their exposure to asbestos."
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673673922757
     

    cool-jupiter

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Parla - Well, the original Japanese passage has it that the survey was actually conducted by those who conducted the survey talking to the people who participated in it. So, my opinion is that interview is an appropriate choice of word. But your 'participate' also sounds pretty fine to me. Thanks, as always.

    veisarius - Thanks for providing a curious link. So, is it all right if I understand that "be questioned" fits into academic or technical writing?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I have a feeling that "questioned" is going out of favour. I admit that I don't like this usage of "interviewed", which can also be a euphemism for questioning by the police or other authority figure. I reluctantly admit that it's more fashionable nowadays to use "interviewed". You can be "interviewed" over the phone as well.

    I like Parla's "participated in the survey".
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    For me, "interview" suggests a two-way conversation, and would be appropriate for the kind of survey which involves a discussion between interviewers and participants, and where 'free format' replies are interpreted by the professional interviewers. In this age of box-ticking and algorithms (and often badly formulated questions that skew the results!), interview-style surveys are increasingly rare.

    I certainly wouldn't use "interviewed" if the survey consisted of a few questions with 'yes/no' or 'rate from 1 to 5' answers, even if it were done face to face. In that case, "questioned" seems to me an appropriate term.

    I also like Parla's "participated". It avoids the nuances that might be read into some of the other words.

    Ws
     

    cool-jupiter

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    velisarius - I see. So, depending on the context, interview can be interpreted as a form of questioning by police officers. Interesting. I'm getting to like participate. I'm kind of poised between them.

    Wordsmyth - Greetings. I just checked the original book where the passage came from, and behold, it was published in 1984, well before the advent of the Internet or other forms of technology. So, I myself think that interview and question both work fine here. But the basic consensus here in this thread seems that using participate is the safest bet.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Participate is not specific enough; it tells you nothing about the type of survey, as Parla says.
    The words respondent and interviewee are used to describe those who answer questionnaires, for example.
     

    cool-jupiter

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    e2efour - Thanks for suggesting respondent and interviewee. They really add to my vocabulary.

    It just occurred to me that using inquire might make the sentence sound better than using question. How do you people feel about "Nearly 5,000 people were inquired."?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Having read all your posts, I have come to the conclusion that we need a little more context. When I saw 'questioned' I automatically assumed that the survey was conducted either face-to-face or over the phone (which still happens in Italy, although it is not as common as it was). Whilst I agree that 'participate/take part in a survey' is by far the best option for any kind of survey, I would still say 'I was interviewed over the phone' and not 'I was questioned over the phone' in this case. If, on the other hand, I were to take part in an online survey then yes, I agree, 'to be interviewed' is the wrong verb (and I wouldn't say 'I was questioned' online, either).:)
     

    cool-jupiter

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    london calling - Thanks for getting back. The backdrop is that thousands of people were actually asked many questions face to face in a survey whose purpose was to look into what age people most likely to get married at and whatnot. It appears that this survey took place in Japan about 30 years ago, and its report was translated into English and adopted as a passage in a student workbook. So, for me personally, "to be interviewed" is the most appropriate. However, my American friend from Chicago told me that "to be questioned" is OK in this context. This kind of thing can happen. I know it, because I myself have been where you've all been. There have been many times when I was asked a question regarding the Japanese language by non-native Japanese speakers, my friends and I often gave different answers. Nobody can give a perfect answer. That's for sure. But I enjoy here in this forum. There are so many echoes of the past here, and I can delve into them. Also, there are people like you who are willing to help other people learn. That's what makes this site so fascinating.
     
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