He stopped a passing guard, but didn't dare mention platform nine and three-quarters. The guard had never heard of Hogwarts and when Harry couldn't even tell him what part of the country it was in, he started to get annoyed, as though Harry was being stupid on purpose. Getting desperate, Harry asked for the train that left at eleven o'clock, but the guard said there wasn't one. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

In this context, I guess, ‘asked for’ seems to mean ‘asked about’ the train. But I’ve not found the usage yet. Would you let me know what the phrase exactly means in this case?

4 Answers 4


"asked for" differs slightly from "asked about".

"asked for" is a request not so much for information about the train, but is more a request for directions to it. Example: "He asked for the exit."

"asked about", while similar, could be used by someone out of idle curiousity who has no need of actually getting on the train. Indeed, "asked about" could refer to a request for information about the type of locomotive or number of carriages or what colour the paintwork is.


In that case, asked for means "asked for information about"; you could rephrase the sentence as follows:

Harry asked for information about the train that left at eleven o'clock, but the guard said there wasn't one.

This is what the OALD says:

ask for something to ask for a job/a drink/an explanation

I am writing to ask for some information about courses.

One of the definitions given from the NOAD for ask is the following one.

request (someone) to do or give something:

Mary asked her father for money.

Don't be afraid to ask for advice.

  • Would you let me see any dictionary that says like your words?
    – Listenever
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 13:49
  • so, all your cases just mean "request/demand something: request an explanation, demand money, request advice. But "request/demand the train"? Isn't it awkward?
    – Listenever
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 14:44
  • "Ask for the train that left at eleven o'clock" means "request someone to give information about the train that left at eleven o'clock"; it doesn't mean "request someone to give the train that left at eleven o'clock."
    – apaderno
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 15:19

Maybe this is a US/UK thing, or maybe it is just poorly worded. I think the more common phrasing would be, "... asked about the train ..." or "... asked for information regarding the train ..."

Normally, to "ask for" something means to request that it be given to you or done for you. Taken out of context, I would understand "Harry asked for the train" to mean "Harry requested that someone give him a train". You can ask for something that isn't physical, like "ask for information" or "ask for more time", but it's the same idea: You want someone to give you information or you want someone to give you more time.


Normally if you ask for a train it means you want to buy a ticket for that train. If he didn't want a ticket he should have "asked about" the train.

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