The Spanish verbs "pedir" and "preguntar" can be confusing sometimes because they both mean "to ask"; however, they are used in different contexts.
Spanish verb: Pedir
We use pedir when
- asking for an item/object
Here, you often use indirect object pronouns (me, le, te...) because one normally asks people for items/objects.
- ordering things
- asking a favor
If you want to ask someone if they can do you a favor, you use "pedir un favor":
Be careful not to use the verb preguntar in any of these cases above. These would be incorrect:
- Le pregunté un poco de sal para el guiso.
- Ayer pregunté dos libros en Amazon.
- A mí no me gusta preguntar favores a la gente.
- asking someone to do something
If we ask someone to do something, as a "light" request (rather than as a strong command), then we use pedir que (not preguntar que) followed by the subjunctive:
Spanish verb: Preguntar
We use preguntar for "to ask" when we are inquiring about some kind of information, for example:
In these cases shown above using preguntar, we generally find a subordinate adverbial clause using si, cuándo, dónde...
We also use preguntar when we are "asking for someone", for example on the phone:
When we talk about asking a question we do not use the verb preguntar, we use the verb hacer instead:
Note that una pregunta means a question. If we use the verb preguntar, the question would be:
This is very unusual in Spanish because it sounds repetitive as the verb is almost the same as the noun, therefore we use "hacer".
Sometimes pedir and preguntar are interchangeable
In certain contexts pedir and preguntar are interchangeable; this is often when you are asking for a more "abstract thing" (e.g. an opinion, a telephone number, an address):
In these cases it is as if, when using preguntar, we were omitting part of the sentence:
Me preguntó [cuál era] mi número de teléfono. (...what my phone number was)
Solo te estoy preguntando [cuál es] tu opinión. (...what your opinion is)
However, bear in mind that for some things that may also seem "abstract" you can only use pedir, for example, when someone asks for "permission", "patience", "a kiss" or to offer "an apology". None of these would use preguntar:
Remember not to add the prepositions por or para after pedir:
- pedir por/para =to ask for
Here is list of some common expressions using pedir:
Spanish expressions with "pedir"
See also Pedir followed by the Spanish present subjunctive to ask someone to do something
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