If I said to you "What does it mean by liberty?" or "what does the text mean by liberty?" would the question be correct in structure, meaning and grammar?

I was told that "it" or "the text" cannot MEAN something, but I am still doubtful


1 Answer 1


Both of those forms are correct, and are exactly how a native speaker would ask for clarification or further meaning on a word or topic.

  • I would add that "the text" was written or spoken by someone, so a more common variant of this might be, "What does the author mean by liberty?" or "What do they mean by liberty?" Since the question was tagged meaning-in-context (and it doesn't give much context), that is the most common context that I can think of.
    – mathewb
    Oct 18, 2017 at 16:30
  • I have a similar question regarding this topic. Take this scenario for example, assume I am an English teacher in some non-English speaking country, and I am asking my student what the word "newspaper" means. Is it correct if I say: What does it mean by "newspaper"? Mar 31, 2021 at 9:41

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