Spanish has several verbs that can be used to translate "to ask." They are not all interchangeable, and there are subtle differences in meaning and usage among them.
One reason there are several verbs for "ask" is that "ask" has several meanings. We use "ask," for example, both when seeking information and when making requests, but Spanish sees those two acts as different. The most common verbs for "ask" are preguntar and pedir; in general, preguntar is used for asking about something, while pedir is used when asking for something.
Preguntar is the verb used most commonly to mean "to ask a question" or "to ask about" something. It is often followed by the preposition por to indicate the subject of the inquiry:
- Preguntó por la situación legal de su hermano. (He asked about his brother's legal situation.)
- Pablo preguntaba por ti. (Pablo was asking about you.)
- Ayer me preguntaban por el significado de la etiqueta #metoo. (Yesterday they were asking me about the meaning of the hashtag #metoo.)
For "ask whether" or "ask if," the conjunction si can be used following preguntar.
- Pregunté si había estudiado la lección. (I asked if she had studied the lesson.)
- Me preguntaron si me interesaba viajar a Guadalajara. (They asked me if I was interested in traveling to Guadalajara.)
- Muchas veces me pregunto si esto es necesario. (I often ask myself whether this is necessary.)
Preguntar is the verb used most often to indicate simply that a person had asked a question.
- - ¿En qué página está él? - preguntó Juana. ("What page is it on?" Juana asked.)
- "Para qué quieres saber?" preguntó mi madre. ("Why do you want to know?" my mother asked.)
Pedir is usually used to indicate a direct request. Like the English verb "to request," it does not have to be followed by a preposition.
- Pidió un coche azul. (She asked for a blue car.)
- Sólo pedí que repararan el techo. (I only asked them to repair the roof.)
- ¿Te pidió dinero? (Did she ask you for money?)
Note that pedir is conjugated irregularly. As in the first and third examples above, the e of the stem sometimes changes to i.
Rogar can mean to formally ask or to make a formal request. It can also be a way of saying that someone is asking intensely, such as by begging or pleading. And depending on the context, it can also mean to beg or to pray.
- Le rogamos que indique los números de teléfono completos. (We ask that you indicate the complete telephone number.)
- Se ruegan los clientes que tomen las precauciones oportunas para salvaguardar sus pertenencias. (Customers are asked to take appropriate precautions in order to protect their belongings.)
- Te ruego que tengas piedad con mi madre. (I beg you to have pity on my mother.)
- Fueron a la iglesia para rogar. (They went to the church to pray.)
Rogar is conjugated irregularly. The o of the stem changes to ue when stressed, and the g of the stem changes to gu when it is followed by an e.
Invitar can be used when asking someone to do something or go somewhere, much like the English cognate "invite."
- Nunca he invitado a nadie a postear en mi blog. (I never have asked anyone to post on my blog.)
- Te invito a mi casa. (I am asking you to my house.)
- Me invitaban a unirme a su grupo de apoyo. (They are asking me to join their support group.)
Solicitar can be used in much the same way as pedir, although it is less common and is most likely to be used with certain types of requests, such as for information, or in legal or business contexts.
- Solicitan amnistía para ex presidente. (They are asking for amnesty for the former president.)
- Solicitaron sus opiniones profesionales sobre el proyecto. (They are asking for his professional opinions about the project.)
- La propietaria solicitó que mi amigo presente su historia laboral completa. (The owner asked my friend to provide his complete employment history.)
- The most common Spanish verbs meaning "to ask" are preguntar and pedir.
- Preguntar is usually used when seeking information, while pedir is used when asking for action.
- Other verbs used in specific circumstances for "ask" include rogar, invitar, and solicitar.