How would you describe the action of forcing another person do something, when they must do this, but it is not very serious if they don't do it.

OR, simply put:

What word is stronger than "ask" and weaker than "demand"?

  • 8
    'Implore'? But why haven't you looked up and included synonyms of 'ask' and 'demand'? Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 16:51
  • 12
    tell: I told him to do it- We’ll see if he does.
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 17:21
  • 4
    If it is not very serious if they don't do it, then I would not say "they must do this". Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 23:37
  • I strongly ask?
    – user13267
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 2:15
  • 2
    I agree with Craig McQueen: this question is poorly delimited.  I understand “they must do this” to be stronger than “demand”, so I can't imagine a concept that means “they must do this” but is weaker than “demand”.  Some examples would help scope this question.         P.S. [single-word-request] questions are required to include an example sentence. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 5:06

11 Answers 11



noun: an act of asking politely or formally for something.
verb: politely or formally ask for.

Source: Oxford

It is more formal than 'ask' (say something in order to obtain an answer or some information.), but has less force than 'demand' (an insistent and peremptory request, made as if by right.)

  • 6
    It's more formal, but not more "powerful" - you are no more obligated to grant my request than you are to do what I ask. This answer doesn't meet the needs stated in the question at all, why is it so heavily upvoted and already accepted?
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:17
  • 3
    @talrnu accepted, because that's what the OP wanted after all (accepted means it solved their problem). As for why it's so upvoted, I have no idea... feel free to add an answer yourself. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:21
  • 4
    It's more formal than ask, but it's not inherently more forceful. It may be more forceful in a business context when your superior asks, but that has more to do with your position and relationship with them than it does the word. I, too, am baffled by the upvotes like @talrnu; it may be a HNQ effect.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 0:12
  • 2
    @jpmc26 I think that if request is predominantly used in contexts where formality has a connotation of force, then this connotation will start to carry over to other contexts. To me this seems to be the case, but I'm not a native speaker.
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 7:45
  • 1
    @Erik Consider the reverse, though. If a subordinate requests something from their superior or if I "submit a request" to an organization I have no influence over, it doesn't carry that connotation. It's the relationship that carries the implication of requirement, and when that relationship is not present, request loses that connotation. Even in the presence of such a relationship, it can still be used to describe a legitimate request rather than something that's required; it would depend on the specific request being made.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 7:50


'Urge' is weaker than 'demand' but is stronger than 'ask'.

I urge you to do this for me.

  • 6
    Welcome to ELU! Could you add a definition in order to prove that urge fits in the middle? Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 9:21

Instead of asking someone to do something, you can assign the task to do something. More casually, you can "task them to do something".

This has the general feeling of an involuntary obligation (someone else decided you must do it), but also not having serious consequences without additional context to quantify the penalties for failure.

Some examples:

  • The professor assigned us reading for next week.
  • My manager assigned me the task of coming up with five new product features.
  • I've been tasked with drawing up the agenda for the next meeting.
  • 1
    Welcome to ELU! I hope my edit is acceptable. By the way, I notice you haven't done the tour yet (by your lack of badge), which is helpful when you're starting out. There's also a help center... Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 18:05
  • 2
    This is decent answer; surprisingly good for a person’s first answer.  You could make it even better by quoting and attributing some dictionary definitions for the key words of the answer.  See What good reference works on English are available?, and/or just type define assign into Google. Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 22:36
  • To my mind neither of these suggestions fits easily between ask and demand. Both have a much more limited usage than ask and demand. I task you to go/I assign you to go!? Surely, I ask you to go; I request/tell you to go; I demand that you go.
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 1:19
  • @Dan Assign meets the exact needs stated in the question: declaring an obligation without implying consequences should the obligation not be met. Request makes no implication of obligation or consequence, any more than ask does. In fact, describing something as a request emphasizes an explicit lack or even outright avoidance of obligation.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:20
  • @talrnu - fair point, although, to my mind request has a formal nuance that ups the intensity of an ask. Another dis-ease I have with assign is that, unlike ask and demand it is used in a passive voice. It also, like task, sounds stilted, to my UK ears.
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 21:39

Another word that can be used would be expect. From Dictionary.com in their section on synonyms:

Expect, anticipate, hope, await all imply looking to some future event. Expect implies confidently believing, usually for good reasons, that an event will occur: to expect a visit from a friend.

This can be used both from a superior position (a boss asking strongly that a subordinate do something):

I expect all employees to complete their time-sheets for the previous week by the following Monday afternoon.

And can also be used more formally from a slightly subordinate position or when dealing with a large organisation and you are trying to "force their hand" without (at this stage) sounding too demanding:

Please find enclosed the details of my insurance claim. I expect to receive your initial response within 14 days.

By telling someone of your expectation that a certain event or action will happen, you are, in effect, requesting them to make sure that that it does happen -- more strongly than simply asking them to do something, but not as strongly as demanding that it happen.

A milder form of this idea -- setting an expectation -- would be look forward: "I look forward to receiving your response within 14 days.".

  • 1
    Interesting, expect is dangerously close to implying a repercussion if you fail to meet expectations. If my boss told me he expects me to have this assignment done by Friday, I'd assume there'll be hell to pay come Monday if I don't.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:30
  • 3
    @talrnu You're right that it's closer to demand than ask (but still, I think, between the two). Depending on precise context (and existing relationship) "repercussions" could be as much as "hell to pay", or you might just need a valid excuse.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 19:09
  • 1
    Indeed, it's a context-sensitive implication that might even depend on the subtleties of (or perhaps distinct lack of subtlety in) intonation. The super passive-aggressive look forward is similarly subtle, though generally more polite. But I agree, both are within the range the asker's supposedly looking for.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 19:24

If this is someone telling a subordinate to do something, perhaps "instruct", "direct" or even "tell"?



I insist you think deeply about this issue. I insist you let me pay this bill.

And Google's dictionary added 'demand something forcefully, not accepting refusal', which seems appropriate. And they add 'persist in (doing something)', and gave an example: "the heavy studded boots she insisted on wearing".

Insist seems to fit the bill. It feels a little closer to Demand, yet much stronger than Ask. The issue for me is attempting to Force an action or thought, with only trivial consequences if they do not.

  • 5
    I'd say that demand forcefully is stronger than just demand, while the question asks for something weaker.
    – MSalters
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 10:33
  • And am I allowed to complain of another's suggestion as verbification? I dislike the option 'task' as it is more commonly a noun. Even tho it is only my first contribution, sorry to seem critical!
    – SleepyHead
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 14:25
  • @SleepyHead Constructive criticism of answers is welcome, just make it a comment on the answer you're criticizing.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:28
  • @talrnu: Well, there is the issue that SleepyHead, having less than 50 reputation, won’t be allowed to comment on somebody else’s answer. … … …  SleepyHead: “task” is commonly used as a verb in (white-collar) offices in the USA. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 4:53

Beseech is stronger than ask but not as strong as demand.

Beseech (verb): 2.a. To beg earnestly for, entreat (a thing). (OED)

For example it is used in the KJV version of the New Testament. Paul does not demand that the Christians live for God; but neither does he simply ask -- instead he beseeches them.

KJV of Romans 12:1: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

  • 1
    This satisfies the asker's criteria, but it should be noted that this is a fairly old-fashioned word, and other words, (e.g. urge) are more common in modern English.
    – StockB
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 23:26

Impel and exhort are both strongly urging someone to do something.

Adjure adds an element of solemnity to the request.


We suggest that you do X.

We strongly suggest that you do X.

  • 1
    I'd say that's even weaker than ‘ask’. Even ‘strongly suggest’ does not imply any sort of obligation, however it does somewhat imply that not doing the action would have serious consequences. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 14:49
  • @leftaroundabout, it's hard to answer these kinds of questions where there is no context, especially this one which is kind of contradictory. You must do this thing, but it's not very serious if you don't. What does that even mean?
    – dangph
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 16:33

Would you please . . .

Yes, would you please. Many assignments, demands, and orders are politely phrased. The specific verb--unless it has become necessary to use strong language--is unlikely to indicate the extent to which the request is optional or free from consequences if not followed.

Let's try to get this in the mail before the end of the day . . .

Certainly there are definite statements, e.g., "All employees are expected to comply with time-sheet regulations . . ." But because the boss says "I'd appreciate if you would . . ." doesn't mean you don't have to do it.

Often someone in an office is making a request of someone who works, in the hierarchy, for other people. There are service departments (supplies, IT) that do tasks for a variety of people or departments. Often there are priorities to be set.

The historically infamous indirect request (order?) is, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Wikipedia The article also recounts the U.S. President's request to his FBI director about an investigation: "I hope you can let this go."

So there are connotions as well as denotations in these interactions.



to attempt to persuade or coerce (someone) into doing something.

(from the Google dictionary widget)

It is stronger than "ask" in the sense that it suggests the use of force, to an extent. As it does not imply anything about the actual necessity of doing the "something" or the extremity of repercussions for not doing the "something," it is weaker than demand.

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