The Spanish verbs "pedir" and "preguntar" can be confusing sometimes because they both mean "to ask"; however, they are used in different contexts. 

Pedir

We use pedir when

  • asking for an item/object

Mi hermana me ha pedido la falda gris, pero yo no quiero prestársela.My sister has asked for my grey skirt, but I don't want to lend it to her.

Le pedí un poco de sal para el guiso.I asked him for a bit of salt for the stew.

Mariluz me pidió unas monedas.Mariluz asked me for some coins.

Here, you often use indirect object pronouns (me, le, te...) because one normally asks people for items/objects. 

  • ordering things

Ayer pedí dos libros en Amazon.Yesterday I ordered two books in (from) Amazon.

¿Has pedido las sillas en esa tienda de muebles?Have you ordered the chairs in that furniture shop?

  • asking a favor

If you want to ask someone if they can do you a favor, you use "pedir un favor":

¿Te puedo pedir un favor? Necesito algo urgente.Can I ask you a favor? I need something urgent.

A mí no me gusta pedir favores a la gente.I don't like asking people for favors.

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:

Roberto me pide que lo ayude con sus deberes todos los días.Roberto asks me to help him with his homework everyday.

Carmen me ha pedido que me case con ella.Carmen has asked me to marry her.

Remember to always use the subjunctive after pedir que.

Preguntar

We use preguntar for "to ask" when we are inquiring about some kind of information, for example:

¿Puedo preguntarte algo personal?Can I ask you something personal?

Carlos me está preguntando cuándo llegaremos a su casa.Carlos is asking me when we will arrive at his house.

Mi jefa me preguntó si quería hacer algunas horas extra.My boss asked me if I wanted to do some extra hours.

Podemos preguntar a ese hombre dónde está el hospital.We can ask that man where the hospital is.

In these cases shown above using preguntar, we generally find a subordinate adverbial clause using si, cuándo, dónde...

Careful!!

When we talk about asking a question we do not use the verb preguntar, we use the verb hacer instead:

¿Te puedo hacer una pregunta?Can I ask you a question?

Los estudiantes podrán hacer preguntas al final de la charla.The students will be able to ask questions at the end of the chat.

Note that una pregunta means a question. If we use the verb preguntar, the question would be:

¿Te puedo preguntar una pregunta?

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):

Me pidió mi número de teléfono.He asked for my telephone number.

Me preguntó mi número de teléfono.I asked for my telephone number.

Solo te estoy pidiendo tu opinión.I'm only asking your opinion.

Solo te estoy preguntando tu opinión.I'm only asking your opinion. 

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:

Los niños me están pidiendo permiso para ir a la piscina.The children are asking for permission to go to the pool.

Tengo que pedirle disculpas. Fui muy grosera con él ayer.I need to apologize to him. I was very rude to him yesterday.

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:

Expressions with pedir

See also Pedir followed by El Presente de Subjuntivo to ask someone to do something  

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Examples and resources

Podemos preguntar a ese hombre dónde está el hospital.We can ask that man where the hospital is.
Carmen me ha pedido que me case con ella.Carmen has asked me to marry her.
¿Te puedo pedir un favor? Necesito algo urgente.Can I ask you a favor? I need something urgent.
¿Has pedido las sillas en esa tienda de muebles?Have you ordered the chairs in that furniture shop?
Solo te estoy preguntando tu opinión.I'm only asking your opinion. 
¿Te puedo hacer una pregunta?Can I ask you a question?
Mi jefa me preguntó si quería hacer algunas horas extra.My boss asked me if I wanted to do some extra hours.
Tengo que pedirle disculpas. Fui muy grosera con él ayer.I need to apologize to him. I was very rude to him yesterday.
Ayer pedí dos libros en Amazon.Yesterday I ordered two books in (from) Amazon.
Solo te estoy pidiendo tu opinión.I'm only asking your opinion.
A mí no me gusta pedir favores a la gente.I don't like asking people for favors.
Carlos me está preguntando cuándo llegaremos a su casa.Carlos is asking me when we will arrive at his house.
Los niños me están pidiendo permiso para ir a la piscina.The children are asking for permission to go to the pool.
Mi hermana me ha pedido la falda gris, pero yo no quiero prestársela.My sister has asked for my grey skirt, but I don't want to lend it to her.
Me pidió mi número de teléfono.He asked for my telephone number.
Solo te estamos pidiendo un poco de paciencia.We are only asking you to be a bit patient. (Lit: for a bit of patience)
¿Puedo preguntarte algo personal?Can I ask you something personal?
Mariluz me pidió unas monedas.Mariluz asked me for some coins.
Me preguntó mi número de teléfono.I asked for my telephone number.
Javier me pidió un beso.Javier asked me for a kiss.
Roberto me pide que lo ayude con sus deberes todos los días.Roberto asks me to help him with his homework everyday.
Le pedí un poco de sal para el guiso.I asked him for a bit of salt for the stew.
Los estudiantes podrán hacer preguntas al final de la charla.The students will be able to ask questions at the end of the chat.
Thinking...