4

I know you can say:

To make sure we had plenty of time to ask her questions, we took the morning bus to her house.

How about:

To make sure we had plenty of time to ask Mary questions, we took the morning bus to her house.

Is that a valid grammatical short form of: To make sure we had plenty of time to ask questions to Mary...?

  • If it is okay to use a pronoun (her), then it is okay to use the noun it refers to (Mary). – Tim Seguine Nov 17 '14 at 12:39
  • @Tim - That depends on the kind of pronoun it is. Consider: "Jeff decided to go to her house." In that case, we'd say Mary's house, not Mary house. (Perhaps that's obvious to the native speaker, but it may not be obvious to the learner.) – J.R. Nov 17 '14 at 22:28
  • @J.R. Quite right. The replacement has to match in case and number. I would say that is the normal inflection rule, that mine doesn't intend to override. In giving a rule of thumb, I was trying to make it pithy. – Tim Seguine Nov 18 '14 at 6:04
  • 1
    @Tim - I started to give that same rule of thumb when I first saw this question. :^) However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought, "That seems rather obvious – I wonder if there's some underlying reason for the O.P.'s doubt." That's when I realized English uses her in two different cases, which led me to my answer below. – J.R. Nov 18 '14 at 8:16
6

Nothing wrong with either. The only difference is your audience. If they don't know who Mary is then her name isn't required. However, if you are talking about many different females in one instance, you may actually need Mary to clarify.

4

If it's okay to say, "...to ask him questions," then it should be okay to say, "to ask John questions."

I can't think of any reason a name could not be substituted for a corresponding object pronoun. (In your example sentence, the word her and an object of the verb ask.)

However, if the word her in a sentence is a possessive pronoun, you would need to use the possessive form of the name.

So, for example:

The detective said, "He wants to ask her more questions."

The corresponding names can be substituted however you'd like. These are all valid variants:

The detective said, "Paul wants to ask her more questions."
The detective said, "He wants to ask Jane more questions."
The detective said, "Paul wants to ask Jane more questions."

However, if her is being used as a possessive pronoun, the substitution won't work:

Her questions always vex him.

Here, the valid variants are:

Her questions always vex Paul.
Jane's questions always vex him.
Jane's questions always vex Paul.

I can see why this might be a little confusing for feminine pronouns in English. For masculine pronouns, English uses his (possesive) and him (object), but for feminine pronouns, English uses her and her. I'm guessing that might be why you wondered if it would be okay to make the change. After all, I if said:

We need to make sure we leave enough time to ask her questions.

the sentence is ambiguous. If we are asking Mary questions, we can say:

We need to make sure we leave enough time to ask Mary questions.

However, suppose we are conducting a hiring interview. Mary is a member of our company. She usually attends hiring interviews, but she is out of town this week, so she's left a sheet of paper with some questions she'd like the rest of the hiring board to ask. In that case, I would say:

We need to make sure we leave enough time to ask Mary's questions.

because in that case, Mary isn't the object of the verb ask, she's the owner of the noun questions.

0

Although I think both are correct I would question "To make sure we had plenty of time to ask questions to Mary...".

For me the options would be "To make sure we had plenty of time to ask questions of Mary..." or "To make sure we had plenty of time to put questions to Mary..."

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