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A dictionary describes factual as using or consisting of facts. But there are few examples. So I was interested if it correct to ask a question like

"Is your opinion factual?" 

meaning

"Did you form your judgment based on facts?"

For instance, if you discuss political or historical things and your opponent gives you some reasons, so you'd like to make sure if they are just his/her guesses and speculations or they are based on facts.

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  • "Could an opinion be factual" - we position the subject ("an opinion") immediately after the auxiliary verb could, so that be is shifted apart from it: "an opinion could be factual" -> "could an opinion be factual?" Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 17:34
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    I think the term factual opinion is "legalese", and that it sounds unnatural in other contexts. I would normally use fact-based opinions. Thus "Is your opinion fact-based?", though in this specific case, I'd much prefer "Is your opinion based on fact[s]?" Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 18:14

2 Answers 2

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Strictly speaking, yes, "is something factual" can mean "is that something based on facts". So, "Is your opinion factual?" is both correct and grammatical.

However, I would personally argue against using it for the purpose you have in mind. The OED gives two relevant definitions of factual: The first boils down to "consisting of facts" (as in to give a factual account of an event). This is a common usage of the term, although not the one you are seeking, and so could lead to confusion--an opinion is not "factual" in the sense that it consists of facts. Something that consists entirely of facts is a fact itself, not an opinion.

The second definition is "Having a basis in fact; accurate; actual, real." This is the definition you want, and the question works in this regard. However, you are trying to distinguish between an opinion which has a basis in known facts, versus one based in speculation. The listener would probably take the question instead as an attempt to distinguish between an opinion that is accurate or real and an opinion that is inaccurate or based on fantasy.

Look at it this way, most people would regard most of their opinions as "factual". Even if those opinions are based on supposition or speculation, then those suppositions or speculations would have some grounding in fact (or at least the person who holds them likely thinks so). So your question may sometimes achieve the result you want, but I suspect in many cases it would be more likely to put the listener on the defensive (even if it should not).

I would think a better approach would be to ask the question you really want the answer to: "What do you base that opinion on?" An open-ended question in this context is probably better than any yes-or-no question. Even if the listener takes your question correctly, and answers it honestly, you only have their judgment about whether their opinion is grounded in facts.

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Opinions can certainly be factual. The use of "opinion" is usually associated with judgments/attitudes that are less factual than some other words, but opinions can still be factual. Granted, opinions are not always based on (widely accepted) facts. Basically, being an opinion and being factual are related but not mutually exclusive.

In my experience (American English), I hear "opinion" for viewpoints that have a chance of being contested, regardless of how factual they are (like the safety of nuclear energy). I would use "fact" for rarely contested viewpoints, or one with few (or no) conflicting facts, such as the existence of gravity.

Asking "Is your opinion factual?" is perfectly acceptable. This question comes across as asking for specific supporting facts rather than heavily implied or "understood" facts.

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