definition of asks by The Free Dictionary



v. asked, ask·ing, asks

v. tr.

1. To put a question to: When we realized that we didn’t know the answer, we asked the teacher.

2. To seek an answer to: ask a question.

3. To seek information about: asked directions.


a. To make a request of: asked me for a loan.

b. To make a request for. Often used with an infinitive or clause: ask a favor of a friend; asked to go along on the trip; asked that he be allowed to stay out late.

5. To require or call for as a price or condition: asked ten dollars for the book.

6. To expect or demand: ask too much of a child.

7. To invite: asked them to dinner.

8. Archaic To publish, as marriage banns.

v. intr.

1. To make inquiry; seek information.

2. To make a request: asked for help.

n. pl. asks Informal

1. The act of making a request: “He was contacted by the mayor’s fund-raiser … a day after the mayor made the ask” (Jennifer Fermino).

2. Something that is requested: “Being funny on demand is a big ask” (Anne Curzan).

Phrasal Verb:

ask out

To invite (someone) to a social engagement.


ask for it (or trouble) Informal

To persist in an action despite the likelihood that it will result in difficulty or punishment.

[Middle English asken, from Old English ācsian, āscian; see ais- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

ask′er n.

Synonyms: ask, question, inquire, query, interrogate, examine, quiz
These verbs mean to seek to gain or elicit information from another: Ask is the most neutral term: We asked the police officer for directions. The coach asked me what was wrong.
Question implies careful or methodical asking: The prosecutor questioned the witness on several key points.
Inquire often suggests a polite or formal request: We inquired whether the hotel had laundry service. The chairman inquired how best to secure the information.
Query usually suggests settling a doubt: The proofreader queried the author on the spelling of a name.
Interrogate applies especially to official and often aggressive questioning: The detectives interrogated the suspects for several hours.
Examine refers particularly to close and detailed questioning to ascertain a person’s knowledge or qualifications: The committee examined each candidate separately.
Quiz denotes the informal examination of students: The teacher quizzed the pupils on the multiplication table.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




1. (often foll by about) to put a question (to); request an answer (from): she asked (him) about God.

2. (tr) to inquire about: she asked him the time of the train; she asked the way.

3. (tr) to direct or put (a question)

4. (often foll by: for) to make a request or demand: she asked (him) for information; they asked for a deposit.

5. (tr) to demand or expect (esp in the phrases ask a lot of, ask too much of)

6. (tr) Also: ask out or ask over to request (a person) politely to come or go to a place; invite: he asked her to the party.

7. (tr) to need; require: the job asks both time and patience.

8. (tr) archaic to proclaim (marriage banns)


a big ask a tough ask informal Brit and Austral and NZ a task which is difficult to fulfil

[Old English āscian; related to Old Frisian āskia, Old Saxon ēscon, Old High German eiscōn]

ˈasker n




(Norse Myth & Legend) Norse myth the first man, created by the gods from an ash tree

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(æsk, ɑsk)

v. asked, ask•ing. v.t.

1. to put a question to; inquire of: I asked her but she didn’t answer.

2. to request information about: to ask the way.

3. to put into words so as to gain information, attention, etc.; utter; pose: to ask the right questions.

4. to request: to ask a favor.

5. to solicit from; request of: Could I ask you a favor?

6. to demand; expect: What price are they asking?

7. to set a price of: to ask $40 for the hat.

8. to call for; need: This experiment asks patience.

9. to invite: to ask guests to dinner.


10. to make inquiry; inquire: ask after a person.

11. to request or petition (usu. fol. by for): to ask for leniency.


ask for it, to invite problems by persisting in risky or annoying behavior. Also, ask for trouble.

[before 900; Middle English asken,axen, Old English āscian, āxian, c. Old Frisian āskia, Old Saxon ēscon, Old High German eiscōn; akin to Skt icchati (he) seeks]

ask′er, n.

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. “”

You say that someone asks a question.

The police officer asked me a lot of questions.

Be Careful!
Don’t say that someone ‘says a question‘.

2. reporting questions

When you report a yes/no-question, you usually use ask with an if-clause.

She asked him if he spoke French.

Someone asked me if the work was going well.

You can also use a clause beginning with ‘whether’.

I asked Brian whether he agreed.

When you report a wh-question, you usually use ask with a wh-clause.

I asked him what he wanted.

He asked me where I was going.

Be Careful!
In the wh-clause, the subject and the verb do not change places. Don’t say, for example, ‘He asked me when was the train leaving‘. You say ‘He asked me when the train was leaving’.

You can say that someone asks someone else their name or their age.

He asked me my name.

You can say that someone asks someone else’s opinion.

I was asked my opinion about the new car.

You don’t need to say who a question is addressed to if this is clear from the context.

A young man asked if we were students.

I asked whether they liked the film.

Be Careful!
Don’t use ‘to’ when mentioning who a question is addressed to. Don’t say, for example, ‘He asked to me my name‘.

3. direct reporting

You can use ask when reporting directly what someone says.

‘How many languages can you speak?’ he asked.

‘Have you met him?’ I asked.

4. reporting requests

When someone says that they want to be given something, you report this using ask and for. For example, if a man says to a waiter ‘Can I have a glass of water?’, you report this as ‘He asked for a glass of water’ or ‘He asked the waiter for a glass of water’.

We asked for the bill.

When someone says that they want to speak to another person on the telephone, you say that they ask for that person.

He rang the office and asked for Cynthia.

When someone tells another person that they want them to do something, you report this using ask and either a to-infinitive clause or an if-clause.

He asked her to marry him.

I asked him if he could help.


– enquire – ask

1. “” and “”

If you inquire or enquire about something, you ask for information about it. There is no difference in meaning between these words. Inquire is more common, especially in American English.

We inquired about the precise circumstances surrounding the arrest.

I enquired about the scenery and Beaumont told me it was being built in a carpenter’s shop in Waterloo.

You can use inquire or enquire with a ‘wh’-clause.

She inquired how Ibrahim was getting on.

I enquired what kind of aircraft he had commanded before returning home.

In writing, inquire and enquire are sometimes used in quote structures.

‘Anything you need?’ inquired the girl.

‘Who compiles these reports?’ Philip enquired.

Be Careful!
You do not use these verbs with a direct object. You do not say, for example, ‘He inquired her if she was well‘.

2. “”

Inquire and enquire are fairly formal words. In conversation, people usually use ask. Ask can be used with or without a direct object.

She asked about his work.

I asked him what he wanted.

Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012

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