Is there any difference between these two sentences ? (1) Can I ask you to ...[do something]? (2) Can you ... [do something]?

Eg., if my boss were to say to me "Can I ask you to pick up the client?". Would that mean the same thing as "Can you pick up the client?"


  • Both versions mean "I want you to pick up the client."
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 21, 2014 at 19:11

2 Answers 2


Practically the two forms are the same. Technically, however, the questions are different. When you boss asks you "Can I ask you to ...", he is technically asking if he can make the request, not making the request.

[Note: I would not advise an employee to make an issue of the difference between "Can I ask you..." and "Can you...". If the boss asks you if you can do something, I'd personally be likely to ignore the "... I ask ..." bit.


The effect of the two requests is more or less the same, but I would sense a slight difference in emphasis.

(2) is a straightforward request, slightly more polite than a direct order, to do something that would probably be considered quite normal within the terms of the job.

(1) is more tentative - it might be used when taking the request slightly outside the normal duties for the job, as a special favour, without sounding over-demanding.

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