Lately, I have been discussing this site with friends and they have all expressed the desire to ask questions but either don't feel their English is good enough or are hesitant for other reasons. I'm trying to convince some to make accounts.

Is it OK to ask a question on their behalf if I know enough information about the question and I am able to clarify if I have to?

Is it OK to ask about something that is on a friend's mind if I feel the answers could benefit me or other users, even if the question isn't exactly applicable to me right now? What if I would like to know what to do in a similar situation in the future?

5 Answers 5


Whether or not it is the best option, I did ask at least 3 questions here on behalf of a friend and 2 cousins who for various reasons could not ask their own questions here. These questions were well received by the community because I was very familiar with the details of the case, although the person asking their own question is much better to clarify details for members.

The answers written to these questions by kind members were extremely useful for my friend and my cousins to clearly understand their problems and formulate their future courses of action on these sensitive interpersonal issues:

Is it possible for my friend to resume communication with his unofficial sister without earning her husband's mistrust?

How to get more co-operation from a teacher who discourages a student from asking questions to clear his confusion?

How can my cousin restore harmony between his Indian mother and American mother-in-law?

I have seen a few other members ask the occasional question on somebody's behalf as well.

In short: encourage your friends to join IPS.SE and ask their questions here, as suggested in the earlier answers. We can coach them how to ask good questions here. If it is somehow impossible for them to do so, you can ask the question on their behalf, if you have all the relevant details.


In short, it'd be better to have the friend ask.

Having a user join the site will benefit the site as well. If they're satisfied with the responses here, they may choose to be a regular here, which is nice, right?

But it's not necessarily a problem if you ask on their behalf when they are with you to provide any additional clarifications.

Not everyone can formulate their questions well, and since you are familiar with the site, you could do some heavy lifting for them, that is, ask on their behalf while they provide you with the details you ask them based on the comments you see here.

In their absence, if you were to ask instead of them, you might end up making up some assumptions or incorrect details, and in rare cases, if the friend chances upon the post and didn't appreciate you asking that, well, that's a problem.

Do use placeholder names and avoid too-specific details so as to protect privacy of your friend, just in case.


As a general guideline, I'd avoid asking questions for other people. If they have a question, and that reminds you of something in your own life, or is a problem that you expect to have, asking about your issue is fine. Although, if it's a problem you foresee happening in your life, you might have difficulty clarifying the "problem" enough to keep it from being closed as "unclear," or possibly "too broad."

In the interest of helping your friends that worry about their language skills in a second (third?) language: if it really is all that bad, you can offer to help them with the question, and the flood of comments, by setting a time, or a couple times, each day when the two of you can sit down and read the site together. That way they get help with their problem, and they get practice in some of the "finer" (?) points of the English language.

On many other sites in the network it might be reasonable to try being a proxy for someone else. With the twists and turns that feedback and clarification requests can take when dealing with interpersonal issues I doubt that you could know enough information about the question to be certain of dealing with all the comments and requests correctly.

If, on the other hand, you really do understand their problems that well, and you obviously know the cultural context like you own back yard, then you are probably the best one to answer their questions anyway. Thus, making the round trip through the bit-stream an effort better spent elsewhere.


I agree with all other answers: ask them to join, but you can ask on their behalf, consider English Student's warning:

if you have all the relevant details.

and NVZ's:

In their absence, if you were to ask instead of them, you might end up making up some assumptions or incorrect details

Just one more thing from me: they can post their question in the sandbox and get feedback. If it is unclear, they can ask you to refine the question.

I must say that my English is vastly improved by spending time in forums, and now in StackExchange sites!! So, tell them don't worry!

  • 1
    My English has improved quite a lot, thanks to ELU.SE
    – NVZ
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 14:05
  • @NVZ I wonder why you start at English Language & Usage and not English Language Learners
    – Vylix
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 14:08
  • 1
    Well, I'm not a learner. I just needed a little bit of polishing often. I grew up in a mix of races and religions. And English was the common language for us all. I'm very fluent, or at least I consider myself to be.
    – NVZ
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 14:10
  • 2
    Fluency is in the mind of the speaker, @NVZ. I mean: you think you are fluent then you will be a fluent speaker! Grammar and syntax are less important than accurate communication. My attitude to English language changed quite a bit after I started being active here on IPS. Language is for communication but at ELU English is used as its own meta-language and useless debates reach nowhere! Whereas English is put to very good use to solve real-world problems at IPS. So I agree with you @ Vylix that OP's friends can really improve their English by asking (and answering) questions here on IPS.SE! Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 18:07

I'll mention one more factor. Some people, even behind internet anonymity, might be shy, quite shy in fact. I'd be surprised if a number of "My friend" questions aren't secretly "Me" questions in disguise...

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