I know that a question can directly be related to a verb. However, can it refer to a noun rather than the verb?

For example;

On what subject did you conduct studies?

I think that this question can be evaluated in two ways that have the same meaning, indeed. Despite that, I'm curious about grammar.

How we can evaluate the question is firstly

I conducted [studies on the biography of Da Vinci.] = I conducted studies that are on the biography of Da Vinci.

and secondly

On the biography of Da Vinci, I conducted studies. = I conducted [studies] [on the biography of Da Vinci].

I surely know that what I'm focusing on is totally unnecessary and weird. Nevertheless, as you can see in my sentences, the first answer to the question refers directly to "studies" while assuming "on what subject" to modify "studies", and the second answer to it refers to "conduct" rather than "studies" while assuming "on what subject" to be an adverb.

So, can this and these kinds of question be really evaluated and understood like this?

  • I conducted studies on butterflies. Non-scientific matter does not usually call for "conduct studies".
    – Lambie
    May 11 at 19:25
  • On what [scientific] subject did you conduct studies?

Answer: I conducted studies on butterflies, or atomic particles, or census taking.

I see no ambiguity nor two meanings for the sample question.

Even if you write: On butterflies, I conducted studies. [if, say, you are speaking]. That means exactly the same thing as: I conducted studies on butterflies.

"I conducted studies on Da Vinci biographies." is very odd to say the least.

I replaced Da Vinci with butterflies because generally speaking, in art history, one does not conduct studies. One might, however, conduct a study on paint composition. Again, that is science.

I conducted a study on Da Vinci's use of paint or marble.

  • I think the long answer to the question "Who are you reading an article on?" can't be On Leonardo da Vinci, I'm reading an article. = I'm reading [an article] [on Leonardo da Vinci]. as "on Leonardo da Vinci" is an adverbial prepositional phrase here, which is not meant in the question. Its answer can be "I'm reading [an article on Leonardo da Vinci] = I'm reading an article that is on Leonardo da Vinci."
    – Jawel7
    May 11 at 19:49
  • Nevertheless, if we want to ask about the part "in fear" in the sentence "I'm writing my letter in fear", its question can be "In what feeling are you writing your letter?" and its answer can't be "I'm writing [my letter in fear] = I'm writing my letter that is in fear" because it's not sensible. We can't assume "in fear" to be an adjectival prepositional phrase here, as it is an adverbial prepositional phrase. So, its answer can be I'm writing [my letter] [in fear] = In fear, I'm writing my letter. I hope I've just succeeded in explaining my question to you far more clearly.
    – Jawel7
    May 11 at 19:49
  • @Jawel7 I answered the question as posed. Now, you are talking about a "long answer" and changing your question. In any case; The question form for: I'm reading an article on LdaV.=Who are you reading an article on? or On whom are you reading an article? To read an article on someone is not adverbial. It is a prepositional phrase. And another error: "I'm writing my letter in fear."=in question form: "How are you writing your letter? where in fear is adverbial since it answers the question how you are doing something. "How are you asking the question?"
    – Lambie
    May 11 at 20:47
  • Answer: "I'm asking the question politely". How questions create adverbials, not what questions.
    – Lambie
    May 11 at 20:48

The question is simply asking what you studied.

Your first example answer is fine but the second is very awkward.

And note that studies of the biographies of Da Vinci seems like an odd subject, as that would be studying what others thought to emphasize (or down-play) about his life rather than actually studying his life. If the latter is what you did then "I studied Da Vinci's life [and work]." is a much more direct answer.

  • As far as I understand from your comment, a wh-question can refer to either a specific noun or to a verb depending on the context. In this question, it asks about more details of the noun "studies". However, it could ask about the verb as well in a different sentence. For example, "I wrote my letter in fear." If we would like to ask about the part "in fear", we can ask "In what did you write your letter?" and its answer is "I wrote [my letter] [in fear]" but not "I wrote [my letter in fear]", which has a different, weird meaning. Do you agree with me? @SoronelHaetir
    – Jawel7
    May 11 at 19:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.