If you want to ask, ask for, or ‘ask a question’ in Spanish, you’ll need to decide between three different verbs.
To cut a long story short, two of these verbs are:
Pedir (to ask for, to request)
Preguntar (to ask, to question)
In addition, you’ll also need to know:
Preguntarse (to ask oneself, to wonder)
And, later in the article, you’ll see the third and unexpected verb you’ll need to translate the English phrase ‘to ask a question’ into Spanish.
In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about pedir vs preguntar, how to ask for something, how to ‘ask a question’, how to wonder, or inquire in Spanish. You’ll also see the present verb conjugations and how to use the preposition por with these inquisitive Spanish verbs.
Pedir vs preguntar: The conjugations
Pedir is an irregular (E->I stem-changing) verb, which means the ‘e’ changes to ‘i’ in a few particular conjugations.
The present conjugations of pedir are:
|Él / Ella||He / she requests||Pide|
You can see a full list of conjugations for pedir here.
Preguntar, on the other hand, is a completely regular Spanish verb.
The conjugations of preguntar are as follows:
|Él / Ella||He / she asks||Pregunta|
You can see a full list of conjugations for preguntar here.
Learning verb conjugations isn’t glamorous but they will come in handy later.
How to use pedir
Even though you can use pedir in a question, you shouldn’t use this verb to question ideas or concepts. Instead, you’ll need pedir to ask for favours and to make requests.
If you want to order something in a restaurant or ask someone to do something for you, then pedir is the verb to use.
As a side note, when you use pedir to ask ‘for’ something, you don’t need a preposition like you would in English.
English: Can I ask you for a favour?
Español: ¿Te puedo pedir un favor?
English: I asked him for a beer.
Español: Le pedí una cerveza.
If it’s easier you can think of the translation as ‘I request a beer’ or ‘I request a favour’. This may help you remember there is no need for the preposition ‘for’ in the Spanish equivalent sentences.
Here are a few more examples:
English: I need money, but I’m not going to ask for money in the street.
Español: Necesito dinero, pero no voy a pedir dinero en la calle.
English: You already know that for dessert I always ask for ice cream.
Español: Ya sabes que de postre siempre pido helado.
All that said, you may still need to use a preposition such as por when using the verb pedir.
If, for example, you are asking the price ‘for’ something, then you’ll need por:
English: How much are they asking for this car?
Español: ¿Cuánto piden por este coche?
Here you can see that they are actually asking for ‘money‘ but in ‘exchange’ (por) their car.
How to use preguntar
In contrast to pedir, the Spanish verb preguntar is used to ask for information. You can also use preguntar to question or inquire about something (or someone).
English: Can I ask you when the train is leaving?
Español: ¿Te puedo preguntar cuándo sale el tren?
English: He has to question everything.
Español: Él tiene que preguntar todo.
English: He asked me where the bathroom was.
Español: Me preguntó dónde estaba el baño.
This last sentence is a good example el estilo indirecto, which tells you how to quote someone in Spanish and transfer information second hand.
In terms of prepositions, if you want to inquire about someone with preguntar then you’ll need to use the preposition por as follows:
English: Yesterday he was here asking for you.
Español: Ayer él estuvo aquí preguntando por ti.
The best way to think about this example is to consider ‘preguntar por alguien‘ in English as ‘ask about someone’ or ‘ask for someone’.
How to use preguntarse
While preguntar is for questioning others, preguntarse—the reflexive form—is for questioning yourself.
You can use preguntarse when you are ‘wondering’ about something.
English: I wonder if he is the best person to govern this country.
Español: Me pregunto si él es la mejor persona para gobernar este país.
English: He wonders why the streets are so empty.
Español: Se pregunta por qué las calles están tan vacías.
How to ‘ask’ a question
At this point, you’ve seen how to choose between pedir vs preguntar.
But, you may want to know how to form a question like: ‘Can I ask you a question?’
The temptation may be to think the best translation is: ¿Te puedo preguntar una pregunta?
But, unless you intended to bust a rhyme, this question sounds quite awkward.
So, to get around this problem, in Spanish you don’t ‘ask’ a question, instead you ‘make’ one.
The example from above is:
English: Can I ask you a question?
Español: ¿Te puedo hacer una pregunta?
Thus, you always need to think ‘to ask a question’ in Spanish is ‘hacer una pregunta‘.
Some more examples:
English: We have to ask him a few questions.
Español: Tenemos que hacerle unas preguntas.
English: He asked me a question that I couldn’t answer.
Español: Me hizo una pregunta que no pude contestar.
My favourite way to practice Spanish is to ask questions!
I love catching up with Spanish friends and asking them about life, love, travel, politics, food…
When you next get an opportunity, see what you can find out about the world, a Spanish speaking country, or a friend using the Spanish vocabulary from this post to ask questions.
What other questions can you ask using pedir vs preguntar?