Does ask someone for something mean to borrow or it means to ask someone to give the person something permanently? For example:

I asked my dad for a phone.

1 Answer 1


This can be ambiguous at times.

Sometimes though, the wording can give a hint at the meaning

I asked my dad for a phone.

In this sentence it looks like you've asked for your dad you provide/buy you a phone (for Christmas!?). If you wanted to be clear about that, you could have put 'a new phone' to make it obvious it's not one your dad owns.

I asked my dad for his phone.

In this sentence you have asked for something that belongs to someone else (and the ownership is stipulated in the sentence). Usually this implies borrowing - why would your dad give you his phone for keeps ? Of course if you added context, it could mean you wanted to own it '... when he upgrades to a new one'

I asked my dad for a stapler

With a phone, a person would usually only have 1 and it would be intimately theirs. With a stapler, a person could have possession of several, and (usually) wouldn't be so attached to objects like this. This sentence then becomes a lot more ambiguous

Are you asking for him to buy/give you a stapler (one among his many staplers or maybe for Christmas!?) or are you just wanting to borrow one for a quick bit of craft?

Usually in these situations you would clarify, or expand to give context

I asked my dad for a stapler to do my homework (borrow)
I asked my dad for a stapler to take with me to college (keep)
I asked my dad for a stapler but he wouldn't lend it to me after last time (borrow)
I asked my dad for a stapler but he didn't have a spare one (keep)

Although you could reword the sentence to include borrow or have:

I asked my dad if I could [borrow/have] his stapler

  • 1
    Another issue is that you might ask to borrow something, but the person you ask either doesn't have the thing you want to borrow, or for some reason decides not to lend it to you.
    – Sydney
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 12:23

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