I'm told by an English teacher not to use a verb, "solve", when a noun like "a question [or questions]" follows the verb. However, I see "solve" used with "questions" in ODE or on the Internet. He suggests that I should memorize "solve the problem"", not "the question", and that I should use a verb like "answer" when "a question" follows the verb. This makes sense, because "to answer" means "to provide the required response to a question"(ODE).

Considering "to solve" means "to find an answer to or explanation for[something]"(ODE), is it possible to say "to solve the math questions"?

I'd appreciate it if you should rate the following sentences by A (grammatical and natural), B(acceptable but not so common), and C (ungrammatical)?

  1. I asked him how to solve the math problem yesterday.
  2. I asked him how to solve the math question yesterday.
  3. I asked him how to answer the math question yesterday.
  4. I asked him how to answer the math problem yesterday.

1 Answer 1


While you will indeed find examples of all of these, 1 and 3 are more accurate, for the reasons you mention. (2 and 4 are "acceptable but not so common".) Just as you say, one solves problems and answers questions.

The reason for the ambiguity is that often questions are also problems, and problems are also questions.

  • I see. I am a little bit surprised that 4 are also considered acceptable (not so common, though). I'll use 1 and 3, instead of 2 and 4. Thank you so much!
    – maple1345
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 4:42
  • Again, they are acceptable because questions imply problems and problems imply questions. So the concepts run together a bit. 1 and 3 are still more precise.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 19:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .