Could you please let me know which one of the structure "wonder / was wondering" is more in common use in AE speech:

1) I wonder if / whether

used to ask politely for something [= may I]:

  • I wonder if I might have a drink?

2) I was wondering if / whether

a) used to politely ask someone to help you:

  • I was wondering if I could borrow your car?

b) used to ask someone politely if they would like to do something:

  • I was wondering if you’d like to come to dinner.

Source: Longman Dictionary. I guess the only common usage in today's speech is '2a'.


2a is the most used. 2b is used frequently as well.

1 isn't really used in the context of asking for something like a drink or a ride, etc.

However, 1 is used more for telling someone else that they have a thought about something, but it's assumed that the other person should answer what their thought/question is if they know. Like "I wonder how those big fluffy clouds form?".

  • I agree that 1 isn't terribly common, but I'm not sure I'd go so far as "isn't really used." I don't think the drink example is a particularly good one, but I don't see much difference in meaning between 1 and 2a. I was wondering if I might borrow your car could be regarded as "asking for something" as much as it is "asking for someone to help you." I wonder if I could make a reservation for tomorrow night: Is that asking for help, or asking for something? It's a fuzzy dividing line.
    – J.R.
    Apr 30 '16 at 10:44

In the case of 2):

I was wondering if I could borrow your car?
I was wondering if you’d like to come to dinner.

this is basically an indirect way of requesting a favor. This is polite and makes no assumption that it will be accepted.

In the case of 1):

I wonder if I might have a drink?

This really needs more context or another example. It seems like something you might say to yourself:

I wonder if I am losing my mind.

not something you would say to someone else.

Both are normal usage but different.

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