Which form is to be preferred?

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

4 Answers 4


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

A frequency graph comparing "ask you a favor" (blue), "ask you for a favor" (red), "ask you a favour" (green), and "ask you for a favour" (yellow). Blue and green are consistently much higher than red and yellow; blue starts outpacing green around 1935, and wins completely by 1965. Red and yellow are just about even until 1940, after which red starts outpacing yellow.

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.

  • 5
    Wow, looks like American spelling is creaming British spelling! Gah! I like all those superfluous Us! Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 12:29
  • No! It's just that there is a lot more of them!
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 16:01

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


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

  • 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
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 13:38
  • For some people, it would appear that it is ;-)
    – immutabl
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 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"

  • 2
    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. Commented Jul 3, 2012 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
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 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. Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 18:09

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