Category: "Ask"

Задавать/задать

April 15th, 2009 — posted by Don

One other verb that is used to express “to ask” is задавать/задать, literally “to pose.” It is used in conjunction with the noun вопрос, which means question. It is conjugated like this:

to pose (a question)
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive задавать задать
Past задавал
задавала
задавало
задавали
задал
задала
задало
задали
Present задаю
задаёшь
задаёт
задаём
задаёте
задают
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду задавать
будешь задавать
будет задавать
будем задавать
будете задавать
будут задавать
задам
задашь
задаст
зададим
зададите
зададут
Imperative задавай(те) задай(те)

The verb combines with the noun вопрос in the accusative case, and the person being queried shows up in the dative case:

Милиционеры задали вопросы жертве грабежа. The policeman asked the robbery victim questions.
Вчера мама задала мне очень интересный вопрос: если бы мы жили во Франции, какая у нас была бы жизнь? Yesterday Mom asked me a very interesting question: if we lived in France, what would our life be like?
Джордж Беркли задал вопрос: «Издаёт ли падающее в лесу дерево звук, если его некому услышать?» George Berkeley posed the question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Не задавай им вопросы о том, как они сидели при Брежневе. Don't ask them questions about their imprisonment during Brezhnev's era.

The quote by Berkeley is not very well known in Russia and does not yet have a generally accepted translation. It is so well known in the US that it spawns regular parodies, the most famous of which is “If a man speaks in the forest and there is no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?” That one has become so iconic that it is reproduced on t-shirts regularly.


Note: the stress on the perfective past tense forms sometimes varies from the stress here indicated.

Спрашивать/спросить

April 14th, 2009 — posted by Don

The verb pair спрашивать/спросить means “to ask” in the sense of “to ask (a question).” It never means “to ask someone for something.” It is conjugated like this:

to ask (a question)
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive спрашивать спросить
Past спрашивал
спрашивала
спрашивало
спрашивали
спросил
спросила
спросило
спросили
Present спрашиваю
спрашиваешь
спрашивает
спрашиваем
спрашиваете
спрашивают
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду спрашивать
будешь спрашивать
будет спрашивать
будем спрашивать
будете спрашивать
будут спрашивать
спрошу
спросишь
спросит
спросим
спросите
спросят
Imperative спрашивай(те) спроси(те)

The person who is asked the question shows up in the accusative case. The question that is asked most commonly shows up as indirect speech in a separate clause introduced by a comma:

Папа спросил, где туфли. Dad asked where his shoes were.
Дети постоянно спрашивают, что готовит мама на ужин. The children always ask what Mom is making for dinner.
Никогда не спрашивай женщин, сколько им лет. Never ask women how old they are.
Если Боря спросит меня, выйду ли я замуж за него, не знаю, как отвечу. If Boris asks me whether I will marry him, I don't know how I will answer.

But of course the question clause may also contain direct speech:

Боря спросил: «Ты будешь моей женой?» Boris asked, “Will you be my wife?”

The verb is also used if a person answers the phone and wants to know who the caller wants to speak with. Although the phrase essentially means “Who is asking for him/her/them,” in a good translation we will paraphrase it with the standard polite equivalents in English:

— Мне, пожалуйста, Богомолова Алексея.
— Кто его спрашивает?
“May I speak with Alexei Bogomolov?”
“May I tell him who is calling?”
— Позовите, пожалуйста, Аллу Борисовну.
— Кто её спрашивает?
“I'd like to speak with Alla Borisovna.”
“Who may I say is calling?”

One warning about this verb: it cannot be used in conjunction with the noun вопрос, which means a question. That is you cannot say «Он спросил вопрос» in the sense of “He asked a question.” For that you must use the verb задавать/задать, which we will discuss tomorrow.

Просить/попросить

April 13th, 2009 — posted by Don

The verb pair просить/попросить can mean either “to ask (someone for something)” or “to ask (someone to do something).” It never means “to ask a question.” It is conjugated like this:

to ask (someone for something);
to ask (someone to do something);
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive просить попросить
Past просил
просила
просило
просили
попросил
попросила
попросило
попросили
Present прошу
просишь
просит
просим
просите
просят
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду просить
будешь просить
будет просить
будем просить
будете просить
будут просить
попрошу
попросишь
попросит
попросим
попросите
попросят
Imperative проси(те) попроси(те)

When you ask someone for something, the person asked appears in the genitive case after the preposition у, and the thing for which you ask appears in the accusative case:

Я попросил у друга сигарету. I asked my friend for a cigarette.

If you ask someone to do something, there are two different ways of putting the words together. The first way is just like English: the person you ask is the direct object (accusative case) and the thing you ask them to do is expressed as an infinitive phrase:

Я попросил папу подвезти меня к метро. I asked Dad to drop me off at the subway station.

The other way is to use a чтобы phrase, which actually can be put together one of two different ways:

Я попросил, чтобы папа подвёз меня к метро. I asked Dad to drop me off at the subway station.
Я попросил папу, чтобы он подвёз меня к метро. I asked Dad to drop me off at the subway station.

These sentences are slightly different in meaning. The second one specifies that the speaker asked his father to drop him off. The first one doesn't specify that. In other words, in the first sentence the speaker might have asked his mother to have his father drop him off.