< Usage 5—Translating the Word “Ask”

Usage 5—Translating the Word “Ask”

Three different senses of “to ask” are expressed by three different Russian verbs:

VerbMeaningEnglish ExampleRussian Translation of Example
задатьTo presentAsk the question.Задай вопрос.
спроситьTo question someoneAsk him what time it is.Спроси его сколько сейчас времени.
попроситьTo request a serviceAsk him to give us a lift. Попроси чтобы он нас подвёз.

Note the distinction between a request for a service (попросить) and a request for information only (спросить).

It is a common error of learners to say “спросить вопрос” in the mistaken belief that this means “to ask a question”. It actually means “to question a question” which is absurd and confusing. Instead you should say “задать вопрос” (to pose a question).