Archive for November, 2016

grammarNOW! Language Commentary of the Week: Does it really beg the question?

I don’t hear it as often as I did for a while, but since it’s still in common usage, I want to correct the misuse of the phrase “beg the question.” It does not mean to ask for the question. Here is an example of incorrect use:

The new information begs the question, what really happened?

As you can find in many places online, the phrase “beg the question” means to assume something is true because it is said in the first place. It might also ask the reader or listener to accept a conclusion without the premise having been proven. This is called circular logic. Some examples:

I’m intelligent because I say intelligent things.
It takes a great general to win a war. What makes a great general? One who has one a war.
Circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works.

grammarNOW! says:

Just avoid the usage. In the misuse above, you could just as easily say, “This new information causes us to ask what really happened.”

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