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In a report, there is this sentence: "we question the rationale behind ABCDEF..."

Questioning something means to have doubts about it. Cambridge defines it as "to express doubts about the value or truth of something".

Two other phrases often used to express the same idea (i.e., to question something) are expressed doubts or raised doubts. Google returns about 110 real entries with "authors express doubts" or "authors raise doubts"; around the same number for any combination of those (e.g., authors have expressed doubts).

My sentence looks like this:

The authors express/raise serious doubts about the general validity and appropriateness of ABCDEF ...

My problem is I don't see how "express" (to convey or suggest or say or show) is equivalent to "raise". I have a feeling that a situation can raise doubts, as opposed to people (authors in my case). Or, person A can raise doubts about something in the mind of person B.

Example: But defense lawyers are paid to raise doubts. The New York Times.

In my case, the authors themselves doubt the validity of the issue or question the rationale. I feel that "express" is more suitable here, but then I am told they both work equally well.

Which is the appropriate word that fits the phrase in my case?

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According to the Cambridge Dictionary, raise means to cause to exist. It also says that express means to show a feeling, opinion, or fact.

The difference is that raising is generally about creating something new, whereas you can express concerns about just about anything, including things that are already in the public domain.

So, I could express concerns about global warming but I could not raise them - everybody already knows about it. On the other hand I could either raise or express concerns about the possibility that a meteorite recently observed by my team might collide with the Earth - in this case I can use raise because nobody else knows about the meteorite or its path.

In your case, if somebody else has already raised these doubts, you can only use express. If you are the first group to identify them, then you can use either express or raise.

  • Ah that is a very important distinction. Thanks! Also, would you agree that "raise doubts" can be used to describe a situation, where as "expressed doubts" can only be used to describe the act of showing/conveying doubt by people? Example: His alcohol and gambling addiction raised doubts as to whether he could actually lead the team. Here its a person's behavior/actions that is raising doubts. Compare this with: The students expressed serious doubts about the teacher's integrity. "Express" could not be used in the first example. – AIQ Sep 6 at 5:10
  • Yes, that is probably true. – JavaLatte Sep 6 at 5:15

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