May I ask a big favor of you?

I don't remember where I got this expression, but is it normal to ask this question? I mean does it literally mean a 'big' favor? Or is it a way to make it a little more polite or something?

  • 3
    Big is only used when the favor, in the asker's eyes, is considered to be more of an imposition than is generally expected of a typical favor. – Jim Dec 23 '14 at 18:09
  • 1
    It's a good way of asking a small favour with a better chance of a 'yes' … or am I just getting old & cynical? ;-) – Tetsujin Dec 23 '14 at 19:39

"Big" and "small" (or "little") are often used to describe favors, and they both have meaning. As Jim said in his comment, "big" implies that the favor will be an imposition. It can be considered polite to acknowledge that the imposition will be substantial because it implicitly gives the listener permission to say "no" without being considered rude.

A small favor is the opposite: a favor that requires little time or effort on the part of the person performing it.

You should only use "small" to describe favors that actually are simple and easy. Otherwise, it will seem like you were trying to manipulate someone into doing a big favor by pretending that it was actually small!

The opposite is usually not true, however. If you describe a small favor as "big," the person who agrees to do it will be probably be relieved or even amused that it turned out to be easier than suggested. You do run a greater risk of them saying "no," though, so it's best to be honest about the size of the favor.


well said honesty is the best policy if the favor is small don't make it large or Big or time consuming for the next person so he'll not take initiative to give it or maybe if he/she agreed to help than after help maybe they will act like they have done something big and a large amount burden to re back the favor will be on your shoulder so be honest and explain the matter honestly make it simple if the favor is Big make it precise and clear before asking it to others.

  • Was wondering if you could do the community a big favor (by providing proper punctuation and by proofreading this answer)? – shin Mar 17 '16 at 8:19

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