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Solve the question etc...

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,
I have a little question.

Which sentences do you use?
(a) It's difficult to solve this problem.
(b) It's difficult to answer this problem.
(c) It's difficult to solve this question.
(d) It's difficult to answer this question.
 
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I would mostly tend to use A and D. I could see myself saying B or C out of carelessness, but I would probably then immediately think I said something wrong.
 

hirashin

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I would mostly tend to use A and D. I could see myself saying B or C out of carelessness, but I would probably then immediately think I said something wrong.

Thank you for the help, Julie. That's what my dictionary says. But some (many?) native spreakers say C is OK. I'm confused.
 
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Thank you for the help, Julie. That's what my dictionary says. But some (many?) native spreakers say C is OK. I'm confused.
Probably just because they aren't thinking about it too much. Lots of native speaker don't actually know the language all that well. That's how you get obviously wrong sentences like these repeated over and over again:

"No, there wasn't anyone else. It was just myself and my friend."
"Sally wanted to play with Jim and I, so we invited her over."
"I could of eaten it all, but I didn't want to get a stomach ache."
 

Buntaro

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Which sentences do you use?
(a) It's difficult to solve this problem.
(b) It's difficult to answer this problem.
(c) It's difficult to solve this question.
(d) It's difficult to answer this question.

(a) It's difficult to solve this problem. O
(b) It's difficult to answer this problem. O
(c) It's difficult to solve this question. X
(d) It's difficult to answer this question. O

A, B, and D are correct. The three meanings are different.

C is not okay.
 

hirashin

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Thanks for the help, Buntaro.

>A, B, and D are correct. The three meanings are different.

How do they differ?
 

Buntaro

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How do they differ?

solve a problem 問題を解決する
solve a mystery 謎を解く
solve a puzzle パズルを解く
answer a problem 問題に答える
answer a question 質問に答える
 
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I don't think I would ever intentionally want to speak about "answering a problem". It seems to me that the word I would prefer to use for that is "address", e.g.: "I don't know how to address this problem."
 
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Hm, yeah, that's something I would use, but I'm not so sure I'd extend it to the form "to answer the problem".

I think the root of this is that sometimes a question is also a problem and vice-versa, but sometimes it's only a question or only a problem. I feel like when you're asking for "the answer to problem X", you're implying that the problem is also a question, so something like "2+2=?". But then I consider problems like this:

ax² + bx + c = 0
Solve for x.

That's not really a question, but it's a problem. And it's not something you would answer, it's something you would solve.

But I guess this is all really minor nitpicky stuff.
 

Buntaro

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In an American high school, I cannot imagine one student asking another student, "Hey! What solution did you get for #29?" I can easily imagine the student asking, "Hey! What answer did you get for #29?"
 

mdchachi

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In an American high school, I cannot imagine one student asking another student, "Hey! What solution did you get for #29?" I can easily imagine the student asking, "Hey! What answer did you get for #29?"
I agree it's not so common but I could imagine this happening when the problem requires a solution (process) and not just an answer.

Found on the Internet:

Solution to Problem 2: Given the algebraic expression
2(a -3) + 4b - 2(a -b -3) + 5
Multiply factors.
= 2a - 6 + 4b -2a + 2b + 6 + 5
Group like terms.
= 6b + 5
 

Buntaro

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...when the problem requires a solution (process) and not just an answer.

I think the student would ask either "What answer did you get?" or "How did you get that answer?" I agree that if the student wanted a more in-depth analysis of what process the other student had used to find the answer, s/he might ask, "How did you solve that problem?" (But I think "How did you get that answer?" would be more common)
 

mdchachi

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I don't disagree. I'm just saying that I could imagine such a thing. I guess I just have a wild imagination.
 
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