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Respondere looks like a good verb for answering, but how can I say "to answer a question"? I failed to find an answer by looking at dictionaries. These options come to mind:

  1. quaestionem respondere
  2. in quaestionem respondere
  3. ad quaestionem respondere
  4. quaestioni respondere

Which one should I use? Or should I use some other construction? Does the choice depend on which word I use for "question" (quaestio, rogatio, rogatum or something else)?

  • 3
    I always thought of quaestio as a false friend... it's more like an "investigation" than a "question." I think a Roman would be somewhat surprised if you referred to "what do you want to eat for breakfast?" as a quaestio. – brianpck Aug 5 '16 at 14:06
  • @brianpck, I agree; the Latin quaestio has a much broader meaning than the English "question". I think the English one is contained in the Latin one, but quaestio is probably not the best translation of "question". The choice of a question word shouldn't matter for the syntax required by respondere, though. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 5 '16 at 14:11
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I like @TomCotton's suggestion, but I thought I would add to it by providing some other options in Smith's Copious and Critical English-Latin Dictionary.

I think, first of all, that quaestio is not a good translation of English question. If you look through the Lewis & Short entry for quaestio, the word has a technical legal meaning and is also used to refer to something closer to the English word investigation. The Scholastics would refer to different topics of investigation, such as Utrum Deus Sit, as a quaestio, but I do not think they would regard Quid tibi nomen est? as one.

That said, Smith recommends rogatum or interrogatum as a more direct translation.

To answer a question would thus be ad rogatum respondere, which has good classical precedent:

Cicero uses this construction to refer to rhetorical questions in his Orator:

sic igitur dicet ille, quem expetimus, ut...interrogando urgeat; ut rursus quasi ad interrogata sibi ipse respondeat. (Cic. Or 40)

Other examples substitute rogatum with another word:

ad ea, quae quaesita erant, respondebat. (Cic. Phil. 1.1)

The ad appears to be unnecessary, at least in colloquial speech. Here is Plautus:

hoc quod te rogo responde mihi. (Pl. Merc. 1.101)

and Terence:

etiam tu hoc respondes? (Ter. Andr. 2.2.8)

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    Many thanks! Perhaps the quote from Plautus could be read as an internal object (like "hoc respondeo") which often replaces other syntax with a plain accusative. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 5 '16 at 14:28
  • A technical note: @-pings don't work in answers. It's not against any rule, of course, but it doesn't do anything. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 5 '16 at 14:31
  • @JoonasIlmavirta, actually I'm not familiar with what you mean by "internal object." What's an example? – brianpck Aug 5 '16 at 23:36
  • The construction has many names, including "cognate accusative". Here are several examples. Simple examples: id laetor, hoc assentior, pugnam pugnare, vitam vivere. The object is typically a pronoun or a noun related to the verb. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 6 '16 at 7:48
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You could use responsum dare, which answers pretty well in every case that I can think of, no matter what the precise choice of word for question. Both the person addressed and the question itself can be either dative, or ad + accusative; Wm. Smith's dictionaries have plenty of examples.. Hope that helps.

  • Thanks! Responsum dare is indeed a good idea. Do you think it's the only option, or could respondere work as well? – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 5 '16 at 9:30

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