When to translate the word "ask" to Russian as:

  1. Спрашивать (like in "asking a question")
  2. Просить (like in "asking a favor")

How to differentiate these cases?

  • 3
    This site is about Russian, not about English.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 17:12
  • You may have better luck in English Language & Usage
    – Aleks G
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 22:07
  • 1
    I think Geo is asking (no pun intended) when to use спрашивать vs. просить. So the question is about Russian.
    – Dima
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 22:09
  • Dima, yes that's exactly what I meant, thanks!
    – Geo
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 2:24
  • 2
    So YellowSky and AleksG: So you're implying that if this person goes to English Language & Usage and posts the question "When should I use cпрашивать and when просить?" he'll get an answer? How is this an English question? Honestly, sometimes the pettiness on this site is absolutely dizzying.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 21:14

2 Answers 2


Спрашивать is to ask about something, or to inquire. Просить is to ask for something, or to ask somebody to do something, or to request.

But it gets worse, because it would be wrong to translate "to ask a question" as "спрашивать вопрос". The correct form is "задавать вопрос".

I asked you a question. - Я задал тебе вопрос.

I asked you about your work. - Я спросил тебя о твоей работе.

  • Another way to translate просить instead of "to ask" is "to request" and that is related to просьба = request.
    – KCd
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 23:49
  • Good point! Thank you. I have updated the answer.
    – Dima
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 3:27

Спрашивать is to ask a question. Просить is to ask anything else.


  • Спросил, который час.
  • Попросил сказать, который час.
  • Попросил воды.
  • Спросил, где можно попить воды.

There is also a word запрашивать which is about information:

  • спросил информацию - WRONG
  • попросил информацию - WRONG
  • запросил информацию - RIGHT

One can also use запрашивать instead of просить in bueracratic contexts:

  • Металлургический комбинат запросил пять тысяч тонн металлолома.

To confise you even more,

  • in Russian cant language (fenya) the word спрашивать has entirely different meaning. Use the word поинтересоваться instead.
  • in 19 century, the word спросил oftenly meant попросил, i. e.
    • Он медлил — он спросил огня. (А. С. Пушкин "Выстрел")

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.