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.”


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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.