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Could this sentence:

He asked the way to the London.

be wrong? Because according to this dictionary, "ask" means to tell somebody to give you something. Using this definition would suggest that my original sentence would translate as:

He told somebody to give him the way to the London.

which seems to be missing something. Would this modified original sentence be better?

He asked the information about the way to the London.

because it would translate to:

He told somebody to give him the information about the way to the London.

2 Answers 2

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No. In this case, you are asking somebody to give you something; the something is directions to London.

In many cases, this usage of "ask" is followed by a clause beginning with "for":

He asked her for a pen made of a partridge feather.

In the case of certain things being asked for, including directions, the "for" may be omitted. Both:

He stopped to ask for directions to the Chuckle Hut.

and

He stopped to ask directions to the Chuckle Hut.

are correct; the first is more formal but the second is still understandable.

When using the expression "the way" to mean "directions," the "for" is always omitted,

He stopped to ask the way to the Chuckle Hut.

This is more common in British English but is understandable to American speakers as well.

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  • Is it okay to write: "he asked a pen made of a partridge feather"?
    – meatie
    Jul 24, 2014 at 3:30
  • no - it would be 'he asked for a pen' made of a partridge feather. 'Asked a pen' makes it sound like he is talking to a pen, like 'He asked a police officer...'
    – user8543
    Jul 24, 2014 at 8:23
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No, 'he asked the way to London' is perfectly acceptable. Your dictionary also defines ask as:

to say or write something in the form of a question, in order to get information

There's nothing grammatically wrong with 'He asked about the way to London', but the common phrase is 'He asked the way'. It's just evolved like that, I guess.

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  • So, I could write "he asked the weather" to mean "he asked about the weather"?
    – meatie
    Jul 23, 2014 at 8:24
  • Nope. I've no idea why (someone more learned in the technicalities is required), but you would say 'asked about the weather'. There's nothing grammatically wrong with 'asked about the way to London', but the common phrase is simply 'ask the way'. It's just evolved that way I suppose.
    – user8543
    Jul 23, 2014 at 9:25
  • So, "ask the way to some place" is technical jargon?
    – meatie
    Jul 23, 2014 at 9:47
  • Not technical jargon, just a kind of universal colloquialism.
    – user8543
    Jul 23, 2014 at 10:00
  • @meatie, you can ask someone their age, and you can ask them the time. I think the reason you can't "ask someone the weather" is because weather is a multidimensional thing. There is temperature, wind speed, humidity, etc. Weather changes depending on place and time, and so on. What exactly would you be asking about?
    – Dangph
    Jul 23, 2014 at 10:40

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