I found the following definition for ask as a noun.

a demand or situation that requires a specified degree of effort or commitment. Example: "it is a big ask for him to go and play 90 minutes"

Here is an example from a blog post, whose author seems to misuse that above definition. I would have written it as a question, or just omitted "I have an ask" to make it simple.

I have an ask: if you hear of anyone coming around to these parts [of the world] , do let me know.

My (possibly) flawed understanding is that it is informal (and borderline incorrect) to use ask as a noun in that context, and that using request should be preferred in about any circumstance. Yet, according to Google Ngrams, its usage has doubled in the past 20 years.

In what cases should one prefer writing "have an ask" instead of "have a request"? I'm sure I'm missing something here.

  • "Have an ask" is not at all idiomatic, at least not in the US, and would lead this observer to suspect the speaker is Indian or Pakistani.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 7, 2015 at 15:37
  • 1
    Looking through 30 of the most recent Ngram references, I only found one that seems to fit your usage. At least half the rest refer to a type of request in a computer communications protocol (hence the recent rise in popularity), and maybe a quarter are referring to "ask price" in stock trading. Plus a few random ones such as "an ask-an-expert website". The usage you describe is rare to nonexistent.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 7, 2015 at 15:42
  • 1
    (The short answer to your question is "never".)
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 7, 2015 at 15:48
  • Perhaps during a comedy routine...
    – Jim
    Dec 7, 2015 at 16:21
  • @Hot Licks 'I have an ask' is very reminiscent of Clouseau (wasn't it 'We must have speaks')? Dec 7, 2015 at 17:17

3 Answers 3


It's one of those annoying phrases that crop up in, amongst other places, business speak. In a CBS News article from 2011 a journalist writes:

One that didn't make the list but that drives me up the wall is "ask" as in "I have an ask for you." People, the word is "request." I have a request for you, and I need to ask you a question.

I think that sums it up quite well for me i.e. it's an annoying misuse of English that is best avoided.

As a side note, in UK colloquial English, the phrase "a big ask" is sometimes used to express a challenging task; particularly related to sport. For example, "It was a big ask to expect him to reach that pass."

  • 2
    On hearing that last example most US listeners would wonder what having a big ass has to do with receiving a pass.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 7, 2015 at 15:36

Ngram finds no instance of "I have an ask" at all. Your search was only "an ask". Looking at some results, it seems "an ask" is is a term used in financial language for trading commodities.


In some workplace cultures "I have an ask" is used verbally to signal the following about a request that is about to be made:

  • I have carefully considered what I'm about to say
  • It might be hard for you to hear
  • It might be hard for you to grant
  • I want you to also carefully consider it, which might take more time than this conversation

So, one would never say "I have an ask, can you hand me that stapler?", but "I have an ask. During meetings can you make sure that everyone has had a chance to speak on the topic before you repeat your position?" I don't think it would be used in writing.

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