https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/common-verbs/ask-and-ask-for says that "to ask" is used for questions and "to ask for/to" is used for requests (the 1st with nouns, the 2nd with verbs). However, the link says nothing about "to ask something of somebody"

I have recently read:

  • I want to ask a few things of you guys
  • I asked my sister for some favors

In both sentences, one asks someone to do something (things/favors). I assume that "to ask something of somebody" expresses a request, similar to "to ask somebody for something ". What is the exact difference between them ?

I also assume that the sentence could be reworded to use "to ask to"? eg. I want to ask you guys to do a few things.

  • 1
    If you ask your sister for a favor, you are asking something of her.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 15:40
  • My question is whether there is a difference between "to ask sb for sth" and "to ask sth of sb". For instance, could I say "to ask a favor of my sister" ? Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 18:16

3 Answers 3


The form "ask something of someone" can be used for either inquiries and requests.

  • I need to ask for the support of the team. (I want the team to do something. This may be a request for a favor, or a politely phrased order if it comes from a boss.)
  • I am asking careful attention of you. (This is probably a polite order.)
  • She was asking more of me than she knew. (A large favor, apparently.)
  • June asked endless questions of her older sister. (Inquiries)
  • He went so far as to ask the way of me. (asking for directions, i.e an inquiry).

The form "ask something of someone" is less common than the form "ask someone for something" or "ask someone something". It is, i think, a bit more formal. It is probably more used for requests than for inquiries. But it does not have any inherently different meaning than one of the more common forms. All the above examples could be recast without the "Of" form with little or no change in meaning.

  • I need to ask the team for their support.
  • I am asking for your careful attention.
  • She was asking for more than she knew from me.
  • June asked her older sister endless questions.
  • He went so far as to ask me the way.

Ask for means you're requesting for something. Ask of means you are inquiring something from someone.

  • Isn't inquiring also requesting something?
    – jacefarm
    Commented Mar 15, 2022 at 19:09

"I want to ask a few things of you guys" Technically, I could see how that could be asking them for favors also / asking them to do something for them.

Mostly, it would be to ask a question, or in this case, a few questions.

"I asked my sister for some favors" This could either be used in the past or present, I could see it being either. However, this is not asking a question to the sister but asking her to do something for you.

  • 1) Thanks for the answer, but my question is not about the verb tenses of the sentences. 2) You mean that "to ask sth of sb" may mean "to ask sb sth"? Eg. "He asks me a question" is OK, but "he asks a question of me" seems odd to me. Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 18:25
  • 1
    He asks a question of me / he asks me a question both work.
    – Laskio
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 18:31
  • Thanks for making it clear. I assume that the former is more formal, as I have never heard it. Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 19:38
  • Its hard to explain but its almost acting as if the question is a part of them that they contain or like it is a physical object they hold. Its not a way that I personally would word it but it makes sense.
    – Laskio
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 19:44

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