Is there any difference in tone between the two expressions?

May I ask you a big favor?

May I ask a big favor of you?

Is it right that there is a rule to say in this way? Or is it just the way to avoid repeating the same?

“May I ask you a question?”
“Sorry, I'm busy now.”
“OK, then I'll ask the question of Tom.”

1 Answer 1


It does sound old-fashioned, but it's still used, mostly as a polite form of speech in formal or professional contexts.

To avoid repetition in your third example, I would simply say:

OK, then I'll ask Tom.

Both you and the listener know you want to ask a question, so there's no need to repeat the word. The meaning is implied:

OK, then I'll ask Tom [the question].

However, the form ask a [favor/question] of is more commonly used with "favor" than with "question," which sounds even more old-fashioned.

This sentence sounds somewhat old-fashioned but very polite:

I'd like to ask a favor of Tom.

But this sentence sounds much more old-fashioned and pretentious:

I'd like to ask a question of Tom.

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