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Which form is to be preferred?

  • I would like to ask you a favour.
  • I would like to ask you for a favour.
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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

According to this Google NGram, all of the following forms are in use:

  • ask you a favo(u)r
  • ask you for a favo(u)r

enter image description here

As you can see, the forms without the preposition for are more common (with "ask you a favor" generating the highest results). In common use, one may conclude that this is the preferred form.

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5  
Wow, looks like American spelling is creaming British spelling! Gah! I like all those superfluous Us! –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 30 '11 at 12:29
    
No! It's just that there is a lot more of them! –  TrevorD Jun 12 '13 at 16:01

BBC Learning English uses just the former expression for asking a favour.

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I would say the former is preferred/more common in colloquial/spoken English. The latter is not incorrect but used less often.

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1  
While i agree it is the more common it is one of my pet peeves. Is adding one word to make it accurate that hard? –  Chad Aug 30 '11 at 13:38
    
For some people, it would appear that it is ;-) –  5arx Aug 30 '11 at 14:16

Compare it with "Asking a lunch" and "Asking for a lunch" Here, "lunch" is not the actual thing which is being asked; and that's why it should be "Asking for a lunch"

But in case of favour, it's the "favour" which is directly being asked.

Similarly, you can also compare 1. Asking a date 2. Asking for a date

So the correct usage is: "I would like to ask you a favour"

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1  
I see your reasoning. Unfortunately, English Isn't required to be logical like that. What people actually say is more relevant, and they actually say "... ask a favour". I think it is just eliding of you, so actually makes sense. –  Matt Эллен Jul 3 '12 at 11:21
    
Sorry, but I fail to see kookaburra's point: as I see it, in "asking for a lunch" the lunch is the actual thing being asked, just as it is in "asking for some money", etc. Maybe "ask you a favour" is sort of shorthand for "ask you if you can do me a favour"? I don't know, or maybe, as a very frequent phrase it just got simplified. –  user45920 Jun 12 '13 at 15:43
    
You're saying, I guess, that in the shorter question, the speaker is presuming that the listener knows who is to provide the favor or lunch or whatever. I think you're right that the shortened version is heard in speach and that its meaning is understood. "Can you do me a favor" has become an American idiom, as has the more direct (and rudely commanding) "do me a favor." There is a definite difference between the two statements in tone, if nothing else, the first being a bit rude and presumputuous. Kookaburra asks a good question if you take into consideration issues of tone and etiquette. –  Bruce James Jun 12 '13 at 18:09

protected by tchrist Aug 13 at 14:44

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