Is there a short phrase for "Can I ask you?" in the meaning that "I have a question. Do you have time now?".

The motivation is that some people start answering "No, you can't" which is joke of course, but is making small spot in the relationship.

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    "Have you time for a quick question?" (using polite sentence-stress) is better hedged than "Hey, you, answer me this!" Somewhere in between is 'Tell me, [friend]' (but don't try this approach on Saruman). – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '14 at 10:24
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    Why not go on the comedic offensive? "Can I ask you two questions?" // "Uh, sure." // "Great, the other one is ...." – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 13:35

Edwin Ashworth's formulation of the question, "Have you time for a quick question?"—or its U.S. equivalent, "Do you have time for a quick question?"—is perfect for situations where your question really is simple and can be answered in short order.

However, your credibility will eventually suffer if you habitually use that wording prior to asking long and difficult questions. In the latter situation, you might try something along the lines of "When you have time, I'd like to ask you a question about something that's a bit complicated. Is now a good time?" It's not a short phrase—but the question you want to ask isn't simple either.

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I think you mentioned the best way to overcome the obstacle, a positive sentence: "I have a question, (for you/ if you do not mind)"

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    Even shorter....just ask the question! – Oldcat Aug 15 '14 at 19:04
  • Or you can ask, "You have a minute?" or something similar. Usually implies a discussion, which may implicitly include questions. – JSM Aug 21 '14 at 17:22

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