another book help question, this time: language

hola comrades.
this is a super quick one and i’m hoping it’ll make the rounds and reach you linguists, non-english speakers, and other geeky academic types who know about these things. these were a couple of the comments that came back from the last round…

Sara Schenström: I wrote a comment that I had put much thought into, and then I read some of the comments, and they were so much more intelligent, so I changed my mind. I think it’s true that begging is when there’s no Plan B, or maybe it IS Plan B, or Plan F, after all other plans didn’t work out.

But then I also believe that “begging” is a word that means something shameful in our society. It has become the word for those who couldn’t handle and/or accept society’s rules, and it implies that they are outcasts. (I don’t agree, but that’s what I think the word means in our society.)

Some thoughts on language: English is not my native language, and I’m really not an expert, but, “To beg” in english COULD mean a more intense way of asking. In Swedish that would be “Att be”. (Which could also mean “To pray” for some reason…) And then we have “Att tigga” which is a phrase only used for people who are asking because they are poor. To say that someone “tigger” could be used to ridicule someone.

Benni Yang: I’m from austria and we learned that asking is “um etwas fragen” and beggin “um etwas bitten”. I know that both words are an expression of wanting something, but the level of desperation in begging is more.

Anne Chargois: in french, it could be “what the difference between “demander” et “supplier”.
“demander” : “hey guys, can you do this for me, please ? we’re friends and i need you for this or that. if you can’t, that’s ok, i’ll find another way…”
“supplier” means you are desperate. it means weakness. and involved “pitié”. (= pity)
if someone is begging me, i feel sorry for him/her. even i decide to help him/her, it breaks my heart. because he (she) is broken…

and this makes me definitely want to explore more….


who knows good stories/idioms/turns of phrase around “asking” in OTHER LANGUAGES that might tell us something about those cultures and how “asking” is viewed?

hit me. this is wide open: just reach into your brain and go…anything having to do with LANGAUGE and the idea of asking/exchange/gift-giving/crowdfunding…etc etc



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  • Alex

    In Portuguese, there is not (to my knowledge) a generally used term to signify “begging” relative to “asking”. We use the same word, “pedir”, to mean both- a beggar is a “pedinte”, which is not actually used in any other context, but the root word “to ask” is still the same.

    • Clarisse F.

      Actually, “begging” can also be translated as “implorar”, which is a very depserate way of asking for something.

      • Bárbara Aguiar

        This is correct. But the word “implorar” is not used for a trivial thing like a beggar. You would “implorar” for your life, not money. Except when you are a spoiled teenager.

        • Bárbara Aguiar

          In any other situation to use “implorar” is humiliating by the way.

        • Josefa

          You’re right. Actually I took a look in the dictionary, and it says “implorar” means something like to beg with tears in your eyes. (From Spain)

  • Selva

    Fragen kostet nichts: Germans find it very economical. Spanish however use: El no ya lo tienes, as in: you have nothing to lose if you already know that the worst possible answer is no. But you also have the: “te pide la mano y se lleva el brazo”, English has a similar one: Give a hand and they will ask you for the whole arm. Dutch have similar views to Germans, but I might find something that makes them more particular, as they truly are…

    • Eva

      Actually in Dutch we have all three sayings you mention above. Vragen staat vrij: you’re free to ask. Nee heb je, ja kan je krijgen: you have a no, you could get a yes. Geef ze een vinger en ze nemen je hele hand: give them a finger and they take your whole hand. So I guess we have mixed feelings on the subject

      • Michael

        The number of idioms and sayings possessed by the Dutch dwarfs any other language I am aware of…

        Yet one noticeable thing from living in the Netherlands (from the UK) is that the politeness in asking is more strongly implied by tone and body language than by ‘please’ or ‘thank you’, which are the slightly unwieldy alsjeblieft and dankjewel. As a Brit I find this awkward and always use many more syllables than I am expected to.

        • Arieke van Andel

          Interesting observation. Yes I think you’re right. Probably using the words all the time could be seen as less sincere, a mere code, formality, than expressing it non verbally.

      • Arieke van Andel

        Interesting to sum up the sayings. I think they relate to different kinds of asking. ‘Vragen staat vrij’ and ‘nee heb je, ja kan je krijgen’ relate more to opportunities: asking for information, or asking becasue you have a plan. The message is ‘just see how far you can get’. I wouldn’t relate them so much to more severe pleas, like asking for money or shelter? I also think we’re free to ask because we are free to say no. Give a finger and they take your whole hand is from the perspective of the other person – who is more cautious :)

  • Jenny Chalek

    In Hungarian, there are commonly two ways you request something, usually food or drink. There is kérek, which translates roughly to “I am asking for…” and szeretnék which translates more closely to “I would like.” That’s all I have. Back to you!

  • Ameara MClennan

    I think “es ce que je peu avais” is a very soft and nice way of asking, it takes on a new quality. Like can i please have this? Its a lot more polite :) je demande is harsher but i dont know maybe becauss i dont know a lot of french but demand is a command its strong it doesnt correlate with beg its the opposite of beg.. i dont know if there is a word that has the same as the englisj equivalent of beg.

    • Landry

      I’m sorry but your french is terrible, probably just like my english is :)
      “Est-ce que je peux avoir” could be translated as “may i have”.
      “Demander” is “to ask” and does not imply anything rude or harsh.

  • Jéssica Mello

    In Portuguese (Brazil. I don’t know if in Portugal is the same way), we use “pedir” e “implorar”. When you say “Eu imploro” (I beg), you are deseperate. Sorry for the poor english. :(

  • Xavier A. Torres de Janon

    I’m from Ecuador, and the sole idea of asking for anything related to
    money freaks my family out. Fundraising for ‘humanitarian/social
    justice-y’ causes is perfectly fine, but when it’s fundraising for your
    own sake, I know my family would frown upon it. The line between asking
    and begging (“pedir” and “rogar”) is very fine.

    Additionally, in
    English, “to ask” has a more abstract meaning. You can ask a question,
    ask for money, ask for help, ask for support, ask someone for something.
    In Spanish, “pedir algo” seems to be closer to one’s wishes, to one’s
    real will.

    Actually, as I write this, I’m thinking about how hard
    it is for me to ask things. In comparison to how “begging” is used in
    the U.S., I would never dare to do such a thing back home/in general. “Rogar” has a
    much more intense connotation than “to beg”, although it’s hard to put
    in words why/how. When you say “I’m begging you” back home, it’s because
    you truly, deeply, honestly mean it, and all other ways have failed.

    In terms of crowdfunding…
    If I were writing to crowdfund in Spanish, I would actually
    avoid the word “to ask” (“pedir”) almost completely. I would say
    “please” and “your support would be extremely helpful” and “I’d be
    forever grateful,” but “I’m asking for your support because of such and
    such” would be crossing a certain line. Maybe it’s a matter of
    pride/dignity/notions of self-respect?

    Anyhow, *end rant*.

  • Ashley M. Pérez

    Spanish has a lot of variations for this. “To ask” is “preguntar”, which is more directly linked to questions (like fragen/Frage in German). Then there’s also “pedir” which is “to ask for something”, like a favor. When it comes to begging, the words are “rogar” and “suplicar” (much like the French “supplier”). If you’re in church, you’re probably “suplicándole a Dios”, but if you’re begging your mom to let you go to that concert, you’re probably “rogando”. Both are interchangeable, but both bring up the image of someone on their hands and knees to mind.

    Puertorricans are loud and proud and many of us don’t like to ask for help unless it’s family, so I think we avoid suplicar and rogar unless it’s God or our grandmas.

    This might be different for other Spanish speakers. Good day!

    • Félix Marqués

      Wher are you from? In Spain I’d say we just use “pedir” for everything, and “rogar”/“suplicar” in more literary or historical texts, they’re a bit outdated.

      • seph

        Here (i’m south american) saying ‘pedir’ or the idea of saying ‘podrías’ when asking is mostly saved to more formal ocassions. The word tends to be omitted in questions as in ‘No me prestas?’ or ‘no me darías?’ which could be translated to something along the lines of ‘don’t you lend me this?’ but its actually not seen as a rude way of asking. It feels as if it makes asking be more ‘ok’ and between two people standing at the same level. When you say ‘podrias’ (could you) it tends to be in situations where you are placing yourself at a distance or lower level than the person being asked. ideas as literally saying ‘i beg you’ which could translate to ‘te lo ruego’ or te lo suplico, tend to be saved for written speech or…soap operas, and they both are seen as something that is making the person put themselves in a lower level. At least here rogar seems to be less bad than suplicar if you were to put them in a scale. but both are still things people would only use in real life to refer to speaking to god.

        taking out the words rogar and suplicar, most other words you could use to ask, tend to depend on the tone of what it is being said if they turn into something that could be understood as asking, begging or instead giving an order.

        • Félix Marqués

          It seems that it works just like here, except we mostly use «¿podrías…?» instead of «¿no…?».

  • Jéssica Mello

    In Portuguese (in Brazil. I don’t know if in Portugal is the same way), we use “pedir” e “implorar”. When you say “implorar”, you are very desperate.

  • Clarisse F.

    Well, portuguese speaker from Brazil in here.

    I specially like how you’re supposed to be all formal and polite when you’re asking for something. Even when you’re ordering food; normally I’ll say “por favor, gostaria de xxx”, which could be roughly translated as “Please, I’d like to have xxx”. You don’t normally come to a store and just say that you want something; you gotta ask for it.

    • Bárbara Aguiar

      But people also use a less polite version when ordering food. They say “me da xxx”, that is “give me xxx”.

      • Bárbara Aguiar

        Almost like giving an order, instead of asking.

      • Clarisse F.

        I know! Luckily I don’t see too much of this.

  • Maria Cristina Taveira

    I’m brazilian, I speak portuguese and here we could say “pedir” meaning asking and “implorar” meaning begging (or “suplicar”, like pray). The diference is that you ask someone to help you to carry something (pede ajuda para carregar algo) and beg for your life (implora por sua vida).

    • Leticia Saoki

      This ^
      And also: the verb we use for begging, as in begging for cash on the streets, is “esmolar”. Crowdfounding is more like “pedir ajuda” (asking for help). Culturally, when you crowdfund you’re not really begging, because begging implies you’re not offering a service. The money someone offers in a crowdfounding is considered “incentivo” (incentive) or “patrocínio” (patronage).

      • uva costriuba

        there’s a word in portuguese that confuses me: “pedinte”.
        it normally translates as “beggar” but it comes from the word “pedir” witch is one of the meanings of “to ask”, used when you want to ask FOR something kinda physical (like… water or cheese or money or a kiss).
        the other way to translate “ask” is “perguntar”, or “to ask something” (usually direct information, or an abstract question that doesn’t require an action linked with something material, like… you ask a name, directions, the time, the answer to a math promblem).
        so in portuguese there’s a strong stigma around asking for money on the street. at least it is strong enough to forge this word in a bad way… “pedinte” is very negative (whitch i would rather translate as “asker” instead of “beggar”).
        Street artists are called “artistas de rua”, but sometimes are referred to as “pedintes” as well.
        i have seen different attitudes towards the occupation of the streets throughout Brazil, and lately in São Paulo we have a few government projects that help street artists (with festivals that are free for the public, with some space for training and eventually some gear) and also to help beggars driven to street by drugs and stuff (…there’s a very recent initiative to host crack addicts in tiny hotels while they work cleaning the streets so they get paid and slowly see a way out the streets and back to their lives. this particular project received a military blow with orders from the governor that does not agree with investment in addicts like this. so São Paulo is in a opportune time to exemplify how artists, beggars, people in general are treated by society. we have seen a lot of action everywhere in the city since 2012).

      • uva costriuba

        oh, and i’m brazilian.
        …and this might be useful too: there’s a phrase that became sort of a joke about asking for money here… “eu podia ta matando, eu podia estar roubando mas to aqui pedindo…” or “i could be killing, i could be stealing, but here i am, asking…”. it’s a joke between people that got some money and not so much for people that perform or are just asking for money at traffic lights.

  • Maxime

    In french : (to) beg can mean either “pray”, “ask” with emphasis, “wish” or “asking for food or cash (in the name of god originaly I think). It’s important to note that, in french, there’s a word for every meaning I just wrote in the last sentence (“prier”, “supplier”, “souhaiter” et “mendier”). I hope it can help.

    • Neverm0re

      Good to notice that in french, words like “prier”, “supplier”, “mendier” or “quetter” brings in mind some references to religion.. And to some guilty feelings if you refuse to help the people who begs (even if you really can’t help), cause these words are very strong.. Old catholic guilt from our latin origins maybe? ^^

  • Sara

    In portuguese begging could be “mendigar”, which actually implies that you are a begger. You can also say “implorar” that usually is more royalty related, when you go to someone who is superior on your hierarchy to desperately ask for help. And asking can be “pedir” which implies you are asking a favor to someone or “perguntar” which literaly means asking. Those are all verbs. I hope this helps to something. In my opinion portuguese is a really complex language so we have lots of verbs we can use in different occasions. I am Portuguese I don’t know if in Brazil it’s the same but I believe so.

    • Bárbara Aguiar

      Perguntar does not work when you ask for money. It means only asking in the sense of wanting someone to answer a question.

      • Sara

        It doesn’t, I never said it did, begging for money is “mendigar” and asking for money is “pedir”.

  • Nicky

    It might also be worth considering how asking is taken differently in English, depending on where you are. In NY, you just walk up to a deli counter and tell them what you want–no “hi,” no “please”–because you’re respecting their time. In many other places, this is the height of rudeness. But in NY, chit-chat is rude. Just something else to consider.

  • Siobhan

    My experiences are with Spanish, but I am by no means a native speaker. I dabble in Spanish to English translation though, and some university let me teach Spanish to freshmen for some reason or another…
    Asking in Spanish is generally with the verb pedir, like you can use it to ask for a favor or some wine. It is definitely the most common verb to ask for something. Begging is generally implorar, rogar, or suplicar with varying degrees of desperation just like in English. A few of the begs listed in the previous sentence have religious affiliations, but I am not an avid churchgoer and I don’t quite remember which ones they are (sorry dad). All of these asking/begging verbs generally tend to push the rest of the verbs in the sentence into the subjunctive form, which is trying to exert some influence on the listener. There’s also mendigar, which (to me at least) is a very descriptive verb that refers almost exclusively to begging in the street. I’m unsure if that is the best verb to relate to busking, however. Etymologically speaking, busking comes from the Spanish buscar, which means to look for. Though in a way, they’re all seeking something.

    /Nerdy spiel over

    • Siobhan

      I thought of a few more not directly related to asking/begging. When I first went abroad, I was very confused by my hosts telling me “te invito” when we were at a restaurant or something. I thought, well, of course you invited me, that’s why I’m here. What they meant, however, is that they were going to pay for my food/drink/whatever. When I figured out what it meant, I really liked it. Actually using words to describe that they were going to pay for me, at least the more obvious ones that I learned in school, were avoided. Though, we do the same thing in English. “I got this/you” or “it’s on me” means that I’m going to pay for you. In your context, you may say something like me invitaron – they invited me (with their money) to make an album for them, but that sort of takes away the action of asking and puts the action of giving into play. Though, only in rare cases do you have one without the other. ¿Me invitas? would give you something like, “You’re buying for me, right?”

      In any context linguistic or otherwise, general human decency gets you far, especially when it’s at least just a touch beyond perfunctory. Hello, you are a person doing something for me and I acknowledge that, please may I…, thank you, have a nice evening.

  • Ingrid

    I’m German, and in German, to ask for something is “um etwas bitten.” To simply ask a question, is: “fragen.” To beg is: “betteln.” In German, only beggars and animals beg. It is very specifically marked in our language. “Bitten” is to ask politely for something. Begging is viewed as an act of desperation, if someone is destitute or suffering. What you are doing is for a project, because you want to make something. You are asking politely. Du bittest uns, dir zu helfen. (You are asking us to help you.) It would never be viewed as begging in German society. Begging and asking are two very different concepts.

    • WaKaSaWaKaSa

      I feel the need to clarify that this is your personal oppinion, I think you could find people who would call this “begging” in a way as well….

      It is not my oppinion, but I have met people who thought about behaviour like this as beggin (they are like the guys in the cars telling you to get a job when you are standing on top of that box being a bride giving out flowers to strangers)

  • KenDx

    In Spanish, “To ask” is “Pedir”, and it’s a pretty neutral word; as in, there’s a tacit, implied “no attachments involved if you accept or deny this request” thing, unless it is explicitly stated (by either of the parts). There can be “shame” attached to it but it’s got nothing to do with the word itself; that relies almost entirely on the context or circumstances of the person asking.
    “To beg”, thought, as in “rogar” o “implorar” is more uncommonly used and it’s a heavy statement of need or a cry for help; it implies that the person “begging” is in peril (jokingly or not) if they meet no answer. In that same train of thought, “Beg” also translates directly into “mendigar” which is the act of people living on the streets asking for money or help. The english “beggar” translates, then, into “Mendigo” in spanish.

    • KenDx

      I’m from Chile, by the way. The meaning of beg in spanish, specially in it’s religious connotations as other people have commented, may change a bit between regions.

  • Blake

    In Spanish it’s quite interesting. Before I say anything else, I’ll clarify that I mean Rioplatense Spanish (more specifically, from Buenos Aires, but also spoken in Uruguay). The verb “to ask” can be literally translated to “preguntar” (as in “to make a question”), but if you try to translate “to ask for something” it instantly translates as “pedir”.

    “Pedir” is a very common verb that can refer BOTH to the action of asking for something (I can “pedir un lápiz” and I’d be “asking for a pencil”), and to the action of begging for money (“pedir dinero”, as a homeless person would do on the streets). “To beg” does have a translation, which is “implorar” or “rogar”, but we mainly use those to “implorar perdón” (“beg for forgiveness”) or something similar. I’ve never used it (nor have I heard anyone use it, at least down here) to refer to people on the streets “pidiendo dinero”. Strangely enough, this never leads to any sort of confusion as no one really stops to think of the different connotations of the verb “pedir”.

    “Demandar” (which I wanna mention since you wrote it on your hand on that pic) is a really strong and imperative expression that implies power and authority. A boss, a father or a professor can “demandar” something and there’s a big chance that said “demanda” will be taken seriously. If someone on the streets “demanda dinero” no one would probably consider actually giving out some quarters, since “demandar” functions according to a power hierarchy, where the higher you stand (socially speaking), the better your chance of actually getting your “demanda” taken care of. It is a synonym of the verb “exigir”, which forces the other person to give out something, sometimes against their will (although most of the times it’s, again, a sign of power, meaning that a boss can “exigir” whatever he wants from an employee and everyone would think that’s ok). Fun fact: “demandar” also means “to sue”.

  • Betsy Grossman

    Shakespeare has some juicy uses for beg… like “Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg” in Hamlet. He uses ask much more gently, like “Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know” (measure for measure)

  • Bahanur Alişoğlu

    In Turkish, the meaning of begging depends on what you mean.

    1-A solicitation for money or food: If begging is used this way, you say ‘dilenmek’. ‘Kadın sokakta dileniyordu’ means ‘The woman was begging in the street.’

    2-To plead with someone for help or for a favor: In Turkish, we use that word quite often to state how desperate and needy we are. The sentence generally starts like ‘Sana yalvarırım…’ meaning ‘I beg you…’ You can complete the sentence with what you wish, desire or expect.

    3-In literature and religion: Begging also is widely used in literature (romance etc.). You can use begging in love stories but that time ‘Sana yalvarırım’ is used in a different sense. It is a very strong sentence and can mean you beg for an impossible love or eternal life etc. It is also used a lot in holy book (Quran for Turkey) in the sense of asking for God’s help and salvation.

    I hope that’s helpful. I may skip some other meanings because I am not a linguistic student. However, I am good at Turkish :P Good luck with your book Amanda!

  • Mer.

    In Estonian, the word you use clearly shows your attitude.

    Küsima – ask for something
    Paluma – ask for something in a nice way
    Nõudma – demanding
    Anuma – begging

    Lunima, manguma, nuruma, nuiama etc – begging while whining

    Actually there’s a whole lot more but the whiny part clearly wins with it’s synonyms. But hey, we do have one word for the phrase “just don’t feel like doing it” (viitsima) so I can’t say I would have been too surprised discovering that.

  • irrlivre

    Hi! Spanish-speaking fan here :)
    ‘pedir el oro y el moro’ is an idiom, meaning you’re asking for the moon and the stars. ‘pedir peras al olmo’ means you’re asking for oranges from the apple tree, i don’t think you wanna use these idioms.
    i’m from south amerika, argentina specifically and we have some lunfardo (slang) idioms that you may find funny and helpful: ‘pedir que te banquen’ means you’re asking support from your friends. also ‘dame una mano con esto’ means asking for help for this (you may want to say what ‘this’ is) ‘hacer un mangazo’ is also slanguish and means to ask for a big favor. Hope you can use some of these :)
    knd rgds. irene

    • Blake

      I’m from Argentina and I’d never heard “hacer un mangazo”, haha. New slang for me.

  • WaKaSaWaKaSa

    In german there is actually a problem with the translation of the english word “to ask” as it can be translated differently.
    If you ask someone a question like for information it would translate into “jemanden etwas fragen” – “to ask somebody something” (but it is not asking anything ‘of’ someone in a way of giving, beside the information?!)
    If you ask someone for something (to give or to do or to help) it would translate into “jemanden um etwas bitten” – “to ask something from someone”
    this makes it tricky as I would not necessarily translate the german phrase “jemanden um etwas bitten” always with “to ASK” but if the circumstances show to it I would already translate it with “to beg someone for something”

    there is an even deeper level of “asking” which is “flehen” in german and this comes close to the english word “pray” in some circumstance.
    “betteln” is what you do when you are a begger out in the streets, literally “begging” for help, money, food, shelter and again is on a different level of desperation.

    the first two mentioned options in my oppinion are still really lose in the way of not pushing to much. but “flehen” and “betteln” are very desperate and pitiful.

    One note from my own experience, I think it is always the hardest to ask for something that society has put a taboo on to ask for (e.g. money)
    and in the end it gets easier if you have done it a couple of times, the bitter taste never completely vanishes though, as long as the help (whatever it may be) is not given wholeheartedly…. and without judgement and unconditionally

    • Nadine Warncken

      Absolutely this. I’d like to add that there are a few very colloquial words for asking someone for something in German, like “anhauen” or “anpumpen”, which are mainly used when asking friends for money. So there’s apparently a difference between asking friends for money and begging in the streets.

      • Cara

        Interesting. We have a similar colloquial word in Norwegian called “bomming” We ask a friend if we can “bomme” some money/favor/drink/car, etc of them, implying it is a sort of loan and that some time in the future the favor will be returned.

        When it is a more thana once coincident thing, we have a saying “å leve på bommen” – “to live on the bom” meaning you are living off somebody else I’m not sure, but maybe it can be translated with freebooting(?).. This is usually a negative word, but in some circles, like in the artist circle, living off a friend or acquaintance for a while, is considered a way of that life and not necessarily negative at all.

  • annievalentina

    the bulgarian word “molya”, which can be translated to mean “i ask”, “i beg” or “i plead” depending on context, is both how you would request a favor – and how you’d express the sentiment “no problem”/”you’re welcome” when someone thanks you for something. not sure what that says about the culture, but i always found it fascinating.

  • Morticon

    The Japanese language has formal and informal communication forms, and if you are requesting something from someone in a higher position than you, such as a boss or a teacher, you use formal form. You would usually only use informal form with close friends or younger siblings. Many still use formal form with their parents, and also with strangers you are meeting for the first time. It is rude, and sometimes even seen as aggressively, to use informal forms with strangers or people you don’t know well. When asking a person for their name, “Namae wa?” is not very polite, it would be as if in America someone walked up with a blank expression and said “gimme your name.” The polite way of asking someone’s name would be “onamae wa nandesuka?” which is equivalent to “Can you tell me your name, please?” This is an example of the difference between formal and informal form. When you receive what you have asked for, it is polite to follow this with a bow; the lower the bow, the more respect you are paying.

  • Sonja Bajic

    My native tongue is something called serbo-croatian (I learned serbian in school, thou, but I believe that the verbs I will talk about are the same in all after war (ex-Yugoslavian) languages derived from serbo-croatian. Meaning: serbian, croatian, bosnian).

    I don’t think there is much of an interesting discussion when it comes to the verb “to ask” but I would like to discuss about begging (I am learning hungarian these days I thought about that word already today, funny). It is the verb “moliti” which we use for “praying” and “begging”. I find this interesting… Like only ’cause you are in a desperate need for something and you are asking for it – you put someone you’re asking on a throne of gods. Furthermore, you can use the word “prositi” for “begging”. “Prositi” you can use also for “asking for someone’s hand in marriage”. You go and ask for a girl’s hand is like “prositi devojku”.

    • Amalija Vitezovic

      I’ll just add that in Serbo-Croatian there is also the verb “pitati” – to ask a question / to ask for information. There is a proverb: “Ko pita, ne skita” – The one who asks does not wander. (That being said, giving people information or directions can sometimes be as important as giving them help in a more material way :-)

  • simar

    In Hindi, ‘to ask’ is poochana and ‘to demand’ is maangana.
    ‘To beg’ is bheek/bhiksha maangana which basically means ‘to demand charity’, but it sounds less harsher in Hindi than in English.
    I also speak Punjabi and it’s more or less the same. :)

  • Elena

    Hello. A short comment on one of the comments above. The German word for begging is not always “bitten” but could as well be “betteln” or “flehen”. Depending on the situation. Example: to beg someone pardon (bitten), to beg for money (betteln), to beg for forgiveness (flehen).

  • Melina Mendoza

    I’m mexican, when it comes to asking or stuff like that the word that comes to my mind is “Por favor” that is pretty much the equivalent of “please”. is kinda like, “do me the favor to help me”…Another thing that has to do with asking, is to who you are asking the thing. Like if it is to my friend, or a complete stranger. When talking with a stranger is very rude to refer to them as “tú” which is the equivalent of “you” in spanish it’s informal so it kinda sends the message that you’re talking to this person you don’t know like if you did. So you have to use “usted” instead of you. I’ve seen this also in french where is rude to refer to someone you don’t know as “tu” instead of “vous”.

  • Maddriel

    “To beg” in english COULD mean a more intense way of asking. In Swedish that would be “Att be”. (Which could also mean “To pray” for some reason…)
    I really like this aspect of begging as ‘To Pray”, energetically speaking. When you pray, you (ideally) let go of outcomes and let things happen, whether it’s the best for you or for the energy of the cosmos. Then you accept what comes with gratitude. Even if it’s not what you wanted.

  • Adriana

    In Spanish (I am Mexican) it is the difference between “pedir” (which is simply asking someone for something) and “rogar” (making a heartfelt, serious and urgent request to someone). Interestingly enough, in Spanish, beggars “ask” rather than “beg” for money: “pedir limosna”. But I think this video explains better and more romantically. It is a song sang by Uruguayan singer Jorge Drexler. Below is the link to the song and the lyrics translated by

    Todo se transforma
    Everything transforms
    (Jorge Drexler)

    Tu beso se hizo calor,
    Your kiss became heat

    luego el calor
    then the
    heat movement

    luego gota de sudor
    then drop of sweat

    que se hizo vapor,luego viento
    that became vapor, then wind

    que en un rincón de La Rioja
    that in a corner of La Rioja

    movió el aspa de un molino
    moved the windmill blades

    mientras se pisaba el vino
    while the wine was being trodden

    que bebió tu boca roja.
    that which your red mouth drank

    Tu boca roja en la mía,
    Your red mouth in mine

    la copa que gira en mi mano
    The wine glass that swirls in my hand

    y mientras el vino caía
    and while the wine dripped

    supe que de algún lejano
    I knew that from some faraway

    rincón de otra galaxia,
    corner of another galaxy

    el amor que me darías,
    the love that you would give me

    transformado, volvería
    transformed, it would return

    un día a darte las gracias.
    one day to thank you

    Cada uno da lo que recibe
    Each one gives what he receives

    y luego recibe lo que da,
    then he receives what he gives

    nada es más simple,
    nothing is simpler

    no hay otra norma:
    there’s no other norm

    nada se pierde,
    nothing is lost

    todo se transforma.
    everything is transformed

    El vino que pagué yo,
    The wine that I paid

    con aquel euro italiano
    with that Italian Euro

    que había estado en un vagón
    that had been in a railway carriage

    antes de estar en mi mano,
    before being in my hand

    y antes de eso en Torino,
    and before that in Torino

    y antes de Torino, en Prato,
    and before Torino in Prato

    donde hicieron mi zapato
    where my shoe was made

    sobre el que caería el vino.
    on which the wine would fall

    Zapatos que en unas horas
    Shoes that in some hours

    buscaré bajo tu cama
    I’ll search under your bed

    con las luces de la aurora,
    with the lights of dawn

    junto a tus sandalias planas
    next to your flat sandals

    que compraste aquella vez
    that you bought that time

    en Salvador de Bahía,
    in Salvador de Bahía

    donde a otro diste el amor
    where to another one you gave the love

    que hoy yo, te devolvería…
    that today I would return to you…

    Cada uno da lo que recibe
    Each one gives what he receives

    y luego recibe lo que da,
    then he receives what he gives

    nada es más simple,
    nothing is simpler

    no hay otra norma:
    there’s no other norm

    nada se pierde,
    nothing is lost

    todo se transforma.
    everything is transformed

    • Iris

      Drexler es la onda. :)

  • Saturn Orlando

    I study Japanese, and have for quite some time. Now I’m still very far from what I would consider fluency, but I can offer some thoughts about Japanese and asking.

    First and foremost, in Japanese so much of the the language is context sensitive. Although, there are parallels with English (eg- when speaking to superior at work, or an elderly person) the rules are much more hard and fast in Japanese than in English.

    More specifically, when asking for someone to do something for you; if you ask someone that you consider the same and or lesser standing than you you use one word (くれる). If you ask someone you consider higher up you use a completely different word (いただきます).
    This can go even further within these two words even, specifically くれる. If I was speaking to someone like an acquaintance I would say (くれませんか), but if this friend was more well known to me I would say (くれない).

    It sort of parallels English in the way we often simplify our sentences the better we know someone (eg- “How are you today?” to “Sup?”). The big difference is that this sort of thing happens throughout Japanese and is a much more hard and fast rule.

    I’ve been told it’s been getting more casual all around in Japan, but this is something I can’t speak to with any sort of first hand knowledge.
    Hope this helps!

    PS- If you are curious the word I kept typing in Japanese is roughly translated to “I receive/ to give (me)” for all the words.

  • Krin Haglund

    Hey! Japanese speaking anglophone here… In Japanese being too direct is bad manners. Onegaishimasu is a beautiful chameleon of a saying because it’s humble, super polite and culturally loaded with lots of meanings and sayings for the start of relationships or “new” things.

    “O” is an honorific. The root is “negai” which means wish or pray. The rest “shimasu” is the polite for of ” to do.”

    Honorable – Wish – Do

    In my head it always sounded like “Would you so kindly do me this favor,” “thank you for helping me in the future” and just plain old “please.” People say even more polite versions of it when they meet each other for the first times, you can make it even more humble and you say it at the new year. I’m sure others can add more… but this one is a beauty.

  • Kat

    The Philippines has many dialects and languages, but Tagalog uses the word “tulong” for help or assistance. If one is begging for alms or handouts, “limos” is the word used. The action for asking either is “hingi”. The latter is looked on a lot more negatively than the former, and doesn’t translate well in English phrases like, “I beg your pardon” or “begging for mercy”. Basically, if you need or want anything, use “hingi”. “Limos” is also considered as an act of destitutes, vagrants, street kids and the like.

    For example: I need your help – Kailangan ko ng tulong mo. Kailangan = need; ko = me, but substitute for I; tulong = help/assistance; mo = you. Not sure how I can really translate “ng” but in some cases it can actually be omitted. Simplified, it can be “Pahingi ng tulong.”

    I also realized that in English, “ask” is used when you are placing a question. In Tagalog, we have a different word for that which is “tanong”. So if in English you can say, “I’m asking for your help”, that has to be translated to something in the previous paragraph. But if you say, “I’d like to ask a question” it’s translated to something more like “I have a question”.

    We also have a habit of adapting foreign words (specifically English) and adding a quantifier before it. So if we’re ordering at a restaurant, we call the attention of the server and say, “Pa-order ng…” (I guess in this case, the “ng” would work as an adjective). If we are asking a favor, we just go ahead and use the English word. Although it could also be an evolution of the Spanish “por favor,” since a lot of our words have that influence.

    This is just for one language, and I’m basing it from my experience rather than from a linguist or scholarly perspective. There are others like Bisaya, Ilocano, Bicolano, Waray, Illonggo etc. that have different ways of asking for help and differentiating it from begging.

  • Vanessa Kettering

    I was walking down the street with a Japanese friend when
    someone stopped us to ask for some bus fare. I gave him some and we went
    on our way. My friend was rather confused. He said that situation would
    never happen in Japan. I asked what the homeless people did. He said
    they collected bottles and recycled them for money, but never asked for
    In Japanese culture, people do not beg. They rarely ask. Japanese people are very sensitive about troubling others. This is present in the phrase “sumimasen” which can be used as “excuse me”, “sorry”, or even “thank you”, but really infers a small debt to the other person.
    Sometimes, the way Japanese always seek to please the other person can be a communication barrier. As an American, I state my opinions freely. My Japanese friends do not. In a way, I can’t trust when they say they enjoyed something because I know they would not say the opposite. I have spoken extensively about this with one friend in particular. She agrees that it is tiring to be so conscientious all the time. As she stays here in America, she is learning to express her own wants and needs better, and I am also learning new ways of communicating and understanding each other.

  • me

    my two cents on the german translation:

    ask = fragen (posing a question)
    ask for = um etwas bitten
    beg for = um etwas bitten/betteln (proper translation depends on the context)

    is a polite way of asking, “betteln” is used for beggars (“Bettler”),
    but also implies a desperate or a childish way of asking or, yes,
    begging for something.

    • Gudrun Thäter

      Yes, in Germany children “betteln” for sweets and toys and to not have to go to bed now.

    • Ines

      I am German and you have to distinguish between ask and beg whereby in the German words for beg a please (bitte) form is inclueded. If you ask you also add a please. German are very correct (sometimes too correct) and very hasty. They do not take time for a coffee to stay, all is to go. But it is also important to express in a sophisticated way- it is the home of Goethe, Schiller, Brecht :-).
      Other/ more words for aks:
      – sich schlau machen
      – herausfinden
      – erurieren
      More words for beg:
      – ersuchen
      – verlangen
      – um etwas heischen
      – erbitten

      • Thomas

        My two (German) cents additionally to what has been said before and which I mostly agree with:
        I think that, for many people, to beg, i.e. “um etwas bitten” is a process where they feel like they demean themselves, while asking is a more “even” process where you meet people on a level playing field.
        The “bitte” (please) in German on the other hand is such a context dependent word that I don’t dare to analyse it … but other people already did that ;)

        • FrauDankeBottoms

          No the OP is right. It is bitte. I almost certainly always here bitte when someone is begging for something in german. Danke!

  • Manoela

    I know you got lots of Brazilian Portuguese answers, but I’m going to put in my two cents anyway.
    The word we’d use for “ask” is “pedir”, and this may or may not be bullshit but my friend’s etymologist grandpa told us that it comes from a latin verb which means “to chase, to seek to achieve.” He said that when you ask, “você pede”, you are inviting someone to join you in a chase to achieve a goal, as equals.

    He also told us that the word for “beg”, “implorar” (this one I can totally see), originally means “to weep bittely”, which is evocative as fuck.

    Ok, now I’m going to leave the realm of languages I’m comfortable in for the realm of languages I pretend I speak whenever there’s no one more fluent in them than me at parties.

    In Germany, respect is a very serious thing, but the way they go about it seems very weird to me (I’m used to talking to everyone in very familiar terms and calling shopkeepers and waitresses and visiting dignitaries I just met “darling dearest”, ’cause apparently that’s the way we roll in Brazil???) We’re taught to adress everyone, EVERYONE as “sir”, which seemed presumptuous and silly to me. For the first couple of weeks, I felt as if I was degrading myself, until I realized they were being respectful right back at me, calling me “madam” or “lady”. Then I just sort of started squirming uncomfortably.
    As a foreigner learning German, one of the first words I learned was “bitte”. It seemed to me to serve as a very general “hey, I’m being polite!” sort of word, and worked as please, after you, of course, not at all, oh no worries, please, please please. We said it a lot. For about a week there was a running gag where we’d try to carry whole conversations in German by saying only “bitte” and making faces at each other.

    After about four months of living in Germany, I learned what “bitte” actually means. It’s the verb “bitten”, to beg.

    I’d just been begging things off of complete strangers for months.

    I’ve got another cool story for french:
    Their word for asking made its way into the English language, but its meaning changed from asking for something to exacting it at any cost with no excuses accepted: you demand it, and woe to those who refuse. It’s kind of funny considering the ultra-self-sufficient-no-bullshit-accepted-abrupt-domineering french lady stereotype. One wonders how many of those made their way to England in the Middle Ages, and the effect they had on the meaning of that particular word.

  • Rebecca Amy Todd

    I am not sure if I can help… But… As an English major (for what that is worth) I am a semanticist. If you give me a word pair in English, I focus on the distinction. Recently, though, I had to remove language from my communication and focus instead on meaning, intent.

    In China for a series of business meetings, and shamefully I can only say “hello” and “goodbye” in Chinese. Meetings there would run from 2-6 hours-far from the usual 15 min or so in North America/Australia. At first, I was so apprehensive. Then, I somehow released my need to decipher words, and instead focused on body language, energy, intent. After the first hour, my translator stopped trying to translate, would only offer a couple words here and there to highlight specifics.

    As much as we are all conditioned towards verbal communication, we truly are physical creatures. Dismiss the need for words, and instead reach the level of non-verbal communication and the world opens up.

    One person can say “ask” and mean “beg”-the only way to know for sure is to access another level of listening. Semantics, while sometimes helpful, can also lead us astray. What I mean by “love” may not be what you mean-but are either of us wrong?

    Thanks AFP, your questions always make me think and reflect.

    • SteffP

      I strongly agree. I lived in Thailand for a while, and it took me a year to get a grip of the lingo, which is syllable-based, tone-coded, and sports a complicated alphabet – even the numbers are different. When I dropped off the tourist-trail into rural Korat, with little more than body language as communication means (and thankfully a local friend who saved me from committing major taboo-breaks), I found that practically all non-verbal communication tended to be true. No words, no lies. All it takes is a lot of attention, patience and emphasis, and an eye for gestures – they are NOT international. (Sign language as used by deaf/mutes, on the other hand, seems to be kind of language-independent)
      I think that your “begging” question is more of a societal/cultural thing. In Buddhist countries like Thailand or Sri Lanka, beggars give you an opportunity to “make merit”, improve your karma. In Muslim countries, there is an obligation for the devout to give (10%) to the poor. The utter contempt of the poor as “losers” is a very Western thing…

      • Dani Leis

        Agree. I live in Thailand and giving is an important part of the culture.

  • Liz

    I know this doesn’t answer your question, but while reviewing all the words that mean/lean toward the words that mean ‘beg’ or ‘ask’ in my adopted German (lived/worked as a musician there for 3+ years many years ago), it was geekfully cool to see all the German AND English words and phrases associated with them.

    bitten – ask, request, beg, plead, appeal, beseech
    betteln – beg, cadge
    anflehen – entreat, beg, implore, beseech
    inständig bitten – beg, implore, entreat, pray, beseech
    erflehen – implore, beg, beseech, crave
    Männchen machen – beg

    fragen – ask, question
    bitten – ask, request, beg, plead, appeal, beseech
    einladen – invite, load, treat, ask out, invite out, ask
    auffordern – ask, request, invite, challenge
    anfragen – ask, inquire, enquire
    erfragen – ask, inquire, obtain, enquire, ascertain
    sich erkundigen – inquire, ask, enquire
    fordern – demand, require, ask, call for, challenge, make demands
    verlangen – require, desire, demand, ask, ask for, call for

  • alicia

    I speak Malay and Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin, but won’t say I’m very fluent).

    In Malay, to beg is to ~kemis (beggar is ‘pengemis’). Alternatively, ‘peminta sedekah’ is also a beggar, but is literally translated as Alms (sedekah) Asker (peminta). You also have many ways of saying to ask, which can go from ‘minta’ (a kind of informal way of asking), ‘Tanya’ (asking, but for questions), ‘mohon’ (beseech). Of course, to beg is very specific to ~kemis, and we never use ~kemis for anything but begging.

    As for Cantonese, when you ask, you use ‘mun’, ‘Cheng Mun’ is the polite way of asking, ‘Please may I ask…’. To ‘kau’ is to beg, and implies more desperation.

    When we thank people for favors (eg. Opening the door for us, picking up things for us), the Cantonese use “M’ koi”, but for gifts, we use ‘doh je’.

  • Paula Collins

    SPANISH (Mexico) – I just wanted to note that in Spanish when you ask someone for something the verb used is “poder” which also means power/ability.
    For example: (English) Could you give me a ride/lift? / (Spanish) ¿Podrías
    darme un aventón?. Asking here translates very literally to something along the lines of “do you have the power to…”
    Which I think says a lot about what “asking” means. The words used show that there is a shift in “power” wherein if I ask you for something or to do something, the ball is in your figurative court!
    The verb “poder” is used in chants/cheers of encouragement (“sí se puede!”/”yes it can be done!”), and a quick image search with that word shows super heroes and political-looking clip art. And despite the weight of the word, it can still be used so effortlessly in conversation in Spanish. Everything from “could you pass me the salt?” to “can I trust you”.

    • Blake

      I think there might be a confusion with the two meanings of “poder”. It does mean power/ability (depending on the context), but in both cases you exposed (“¿Podrías darme un aventón?” and “sí se puede”) the verb implies an ability, not power. The first example could translate as “could you give me a ride?” (meaning “are you able to give me a ride?”), not “do you have the power to”. That’s what I think, at least.

      • Viole Rodrigo

        I think there’s a point in the fact that in spanish the same word is used for ability and power.
        I agree about your translation, in the translation it turns in to a “Can/Can’t” type of question, but in spanish the word is still the same for “Can/Can’t” and for “Power”, that’s the kind of thing that might reveal cultural differences between languages and ideas entangled in a language.
        That’s why translation is sometimes a bitch.

      • Brenda Stevens

        Poder comes from the Latin verb possum (pot- +sum) which has its root in power. For example, the participle potens (being able) is also the adjective meaning strong or powerful. The very idea of being able to do something is rooted on physical ability, the physical power to accomplish the task. The semantic range expands from there.

      • Félix Marqués

        We use “poder” just like you guys use “can”/“may”/“might” (you have several options, for politeness). But I would say it works for us just like it works for you in English. You ask for something by saying either “are you physically able to…?” or “do I/you have permission for…”?

        • Michaela Mab Hamajova

          I love this discussion! I’ll just jump in quickly to share a realization – ‘might’ ‘mighty’ means also ‘power’ ‘powerful’
          which gives the word the same two meanings as it seems to carry in its Spanish form… ;)

          • Félix Marqués

            Yeah! The capacity to do something seems to always rest on a mix of being actually capable of doing it and also having permission to do it, especially in areas where socially you feel there may be some resistance. And language reflects this.

          • WordyPerson

            yeah! I just have to chime in here right now because.. well.. I’m a wordy kind of guy. If bricklayers lay bricks, what to plumbers lay? hahahaha… I’m so wordy sometimes I even impress myself. I’m so alone.

  • LJ

    In Slovene asking and begging is prositi or prosjačiti, we don’t really have a specific phrase that would seperate the meaning, what is more in that view asking and begging are equal, but it could depend on the context of using the phrase. But if I would to give literal translation than asking would mean spraševati – to ask a question and begging would be prosjačiti – to ask for something someone.

  • RichG2012

    Asking people to dinner:

    ‘I invite you to dinner at the restaurant’ (I will pay for the meal)
    ‘I invite you to join me for dinner at the restaurant’ (We’ll split the bill)

  • Magdalena Waitforit Brossmann

    I am from Vienna and the thing about Viennese people and asking is like learning a dance routine. Ever watch a musical and wonder how a bunch of people can spontaneously burst into song and dance and yet all of them know the lyrics and the moves? It’s kinda like that.

    So if somebody wants you to buy beer on the way home, they will tell you “You know, if you want you could bring beer!”
    And that may sound optional but it really is not. Because what it really means is: “I am hereby ordering you to bring beer, yet I put it in a way that gives you a chance to look like a really awesome person, because it sounded optional and you did it anyway.”
    If you don’t bring beer, you are basically screwed, because that means “I saw you offering me that chance and I know you would have been pleasantly surprised, and STILL I didn’t bring any, because I’m just that much of a dick and don’t give a shit about your feelings or beverage-related needs. You so selflessly gave me an option to get out of this and I just took it, just like that!”

    However if you do bring the beer, you will be welcomed with positive surprise and “Oh you really didn’t have to”
    Don’t be fooled. You have to.

    Now and the thing is, both parties know this. It’s a waltz. It’s like fake wrestling.

    Basically the subjunctive is king and used excessively.

    Probably the master discipline is future-defeat-asking or whatever you wanna call it.
    See you want someone to go to the movies but you can’t just bluntly ask, so what do you do?
    You pretend to be okay with the fact that it probably won’t happen by saying “What are you doing tomorrow? Because I would have asked you to go to the movies!” Would have, like you can’t anymore.
    So it’s win win, whatever the result.
    If they go out with you, they can reassure you and everyone is peachy, if they don’t… well, you already kinda somehow in a fucked up way said you didn’t expect em to…

    This all sounds very very screwed up. And yet, now that I moved to Germany, I miss it. The language ballet.
    Because people here are like “Bring beer, let’s go to the movies!”… and if you do you dancy thingy they think there’s something wrong with you.

    Was this in anyway helpful, because I would have written more…

    • Christina Theputtyofprincechar

      Really nicely put! It really is like a waltz, as you say.

      I´m from Austria as well and lived in Vienna for 9 years. I grew up in a very very small village in the countryside right next to the Czech border.
      We have similar things going on in our regional dialect and when we ask someone for something we also say “Would you like to….” and both know what it really means.

      So if I´m having a coffee with my family on a big table, like we have them in old farm houses, and I can´t reach the milk, I´ll ask my brother “Would you like to hand the milk over?” (In my dialect it´s something like “Mogst ma d´Müch gebm?”) meaning “Give me the milk! I don´t care if you like to or not and you know it.”. Also, while asking I would already stretch my arm towards him assuming/knowing he will do it anyway.
      Another option is to ask in a way people who don´t know this kind of “waltz” would never expect you to ask for what you are asking for. In the coffee-example it would be like “Is there still milk (in the jug)?” (In dialect: “Is do nu a Müch drin?”), both of us knowing: “Go on and hand it over”.
      My family and I like to tease each other and for example take a look inside the jug, say “Yes.” and keep on doing whatever we just did. The same when someone we know calls and asks “Hi this is Rita speaking. Is Andy home?”. We´d just say “Yes.” and wait a bit saying nothing and not going and getting the person asekd for. I love to confuse people like that!

      • Michael Johnson

        I had a job at a print works once where the boss gave out instructions like that – in a kind of faux-request that was really an order. He framed every instruction as if he had your best interests at heart. It was never “Do this” – it was always “Do you want to…?”

        “Do you want to finish that rush job before lunch?”

        “Do you want to come in early tomorrow?”

        “Do you want to get that batch of ink ready for the lads?”

        I was always tempted to reply, “Well, no, actually, I don’t want to. In fact I don’t even want to be here, doing this crummy job!”

        There’s an interesting tangent on all this: when *asking* becomes a passive-aggressive way of *telling*.

        • Michael Johnson

          Having thought about this some more, I realised that I’ve done the same sort of thing – on occasions where I’ve been the boss.

          I’m not a bark-out-instructions kind of person, and I found it rather uncomfortable to be in the position of telling people what to do.

          So I found myself falling back on various ways of *asking* people to do stuff, rather than *telling* them to do it. I found it much easier to position myself as part of the team, rather than the leader of the team.

          By framing my instructions as a request, I could take the edge off my authority…

          So maybe my old boss wasn’t being passive-aggressive after all. He was just trying to be nice. Sorry, old boss.

          However, I think there’s a fine line there. If you’re in a position of authority and you ask someone to do something, as a friendly way of fudging an instruction, that’s fine.

          But if you find yourself *begging* someone to do something, your authority is dead.

          • ANon

            Nice story. Creepy as fuck pics.

    • Pascal Müller

      Many of the commenters here have described instances where a utterance is phrased as a question (“Could you please pass the milk?”) but its meaning (or intent) is that of a command (“Give me the milk!”).
      Linguistically this is a matter of pragmatics (which is a subfield of linguistics and generally has to do with how context influences meaning) and more specificaly a matter of politeness (the everyday variety but also the linguistic concept -> see here: and not necessarily linked to the verb “to ask”
      Although it is an interesting word when it comes to politeness, as the person who is asking will almost always phrase his question in a very polite manner as he wants the asked to do sth. for him. A directly stated command is often indicative of a certain disregard for the person who is asked or of a position of power over the them.

      Another interesting thing about “to ask” is that there are actually two different versions of “to ask” in Present Day-English.

      1) The transitive variant which takes a subject and one object (which will either be the thing asked for or the person asked).

      – I asked for some food.

      – I asked Heather.


      2) The ditransitive variant which takes an additional object.

      – I asked Heather for some food.

      “To ask” translates to many different words in German:

      – Fragen ->

      “I asked him what time it was”

      “Ich fragte ihn nach der Uhrzeit”

      – Bitten ->

      “I asked him for help”

      “Ich bat ihn um Hilfe”

      – anfragen ->

      ” I asked/inquired whether it was ok to bring a dog.”

      “ich fragte an ob es ok wäre einen Hund mitzubringen.”

      The subject “Anfrage” also translates to “inquiry”.

      – auffordern -> request

      – nachfragen -> sometimes “to check with s.o.”

      “I asked whether he had eaten already.”

      “Ich fragte nach ob er schon gegessen hatte.”

      The subject “Nachfrage” also translates to “demand for”

      That’s all I can think of right now. Hope this helps!

  • Rick Bunker

    Well, there are many variants in english — ask, beg, demand, request, solicit, appeal just off the top of my head. Each with subtle differences in meaning. No surprise that there would be a similar variety in other languages. Fragen, bitten, nachfragen in german. Prosit’, trebovat’ in russian.

  • Mania/Maria Ghenzeli

    I am from Moldova but my first language is Russian. In my country, the word begging is used in regards to homeless people begging for money, it is precisely begging not asking. You also beg someone when you are desperate and that someone is higher than you status wise; you Ask someone if you perceive them as equals.

    One of the translation of the word begging from English to Russian is “стоять на задних лапах” which means standing on hind paws thus begging is almost dehumanizing…

  • juju

    In German beggin is anflehen. It’s calls for compassion and expresses the beggars desparation and allows only one possible answer from his point of view. What’s interesting that begger is a different word in German: Bettler. Betteln. Bettler is the outcast Sara speaks of. Betteln means repeatedly asking for something, asking for money, food, clothes. But there is no judgement in this word like Sara said it expresses shame in Swedish. To be a Bettler implies first and foremost that this person has no belongings, no work, no income/ outcoming, due to whatever circumstances, at one point his life took an ugly turn. Penner (tramp, down-and-out) instead has this very negative meaning, without any relation to bitten.

    Ich bitte Dich: I ask you , I request
    Ich frage Dich: I wonder if you
    Ich flehe Dich an: I beg you
    Kann ich Dich etwas fragen? May I ask you something?
    Ich bitte Dich! you’re not serious!
    Kann ich Dich um einen Gefallen bitten? May I ask you a favor?
    I wonder what you were thinking. Ich frage mich, was Du dabei gedacht hast.
    Was denkst Du gerade? A penny for your thoughts.
    Ich flehe Dich an, nicht zu gehen. I beg you not to leave.

    Bitte sage mir, was Du denkst. Please tell me, what you’re thinking.
    Ich bitte Dich, mir Deine Gedanken (zum Thema) mitzuteilen. Please tell me your thoughts (about this subject).
    Ich bitte Dich, den Brief zur Post zur bringen. Please take the letter to the post office.
    Um etwas bitten is mostly used as a polite order or request.

    If you love to explore the differences in languages you can also look for words wich are special to the languages. For example there is this beautiful word “Sehnsucht” in German. A very special german word, as there is no propper translation either in English or e.g. French. Till now I wasn’t able to find the right translation. It’s a feeling hardly to describe. Yes, there is yearning, missing, unpatient etc. but non of those words gets the feeling of “Sehnsucht”. Over the years I came to the conclusion that you can learn so much about what defines relationships in the other culture. As there is so much cultural differences expressed in languages I feel also different speaking them, expressing myself through whem. It feels like every language helps me discovering another side of me. That’s what amazes me about languages. :-)

    • saleet

      i dont know if it interesting but in Hebrow the word “bevakasha” used both for ask as in please but also for you welcome after someone thank you

  • chloe

    So, I’m from Israel, and in Hebrew the words for asking and begging originate from old, biblical Hebrew and have several different yet very close meanings.
    “To ask” (levakesh, mevakesh, bikesh), means to make a request, a wish, or a demand.

    “To beg” (hithanen, lehithanen) originates from the word “hanina” wich means “pardon”, so begging means “to ask to be pardoned”

    • chloe

      well sort of.

    • FoN_Israel

      I’m not sure about the origins of these roots (biblical Hebrew, Arameic, Arabic, and so on), but I think two more terms are relevant here:
      A beggar (kabtzan קבצן) collects alms (mekabetz nedavot מקבץ נדבות). A set or group is a kvutza קבוצה, with the same root being used for a communist collective named a Kibbutz קיבוץ. A nedava נדבה is something given by someone who is generous נדיב.
      A NGO tries to collect donations for a cause, Trumot תרומות by sending out Matrimim מתרימים. So does a musician trying to crowd fund an album… :-)

  • Kelly Childress

    I took Latin in high school and a little in college – “to beg” is “oro”, and has connotations along with pleading, speaking, or persuading (i.e., oratory).

    “To ask” on the other hand, can either be “rogo” or “requiro”. So requiring or demanding.

  • Amanda Hernández Quintana

    In addition to Paula’s comment about the Spanish “poder”, we can also translate “to beg” as “rogar”, which I think is very interesting because in my country (Chile) and in other Spanish-speaking places you can also hear “rogar” in phrases like “Le ruego a Dios”, which means “I beg God”, or even “Ruégale algo a Dios”: “Beg God something”. “Rogar” is a deeper, stronger and maybe desperate way of asking, and when you do so, I think you are sort of establishing a hierarchy, putting yourself below the person you’re addressing, hoping that they will hear your cries. Other translations for “begging” have the same desperate, imploring sense: “suplicar”, “implorar” and “mendigar”.
    But the Spanish translations of “to ask” don’t feel as dramatic to me. Asking a question means “preguntar”, asking for something, a favor or a request, is “pedir”, and to me, both of those words feel much less charged than “rogar” and its synonyms. For instance, I can say I haven’t used the word “rogar” in a very long time, but I know I’ve said “preguntar” and “pedir” just as much as I would use any other word.

  • damaia

    Не верь, не бойся, не проси

    Don’t trust, don’t fear, don’t beg. A Russian phrase that went mainstream with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book Gulag Archipelago. Even has its own pop song of the same name. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference in Russian in how ask and beg are translated- you see both with this phrase, more or less interchangeably. It seems to be mostly about context.

    • Maria Kovalevskaya

      I agree with what you said about the verb ‘просить’. But there is at least one russian word that also means ‘to beg’ – умолять. This word has a strong expression: it means that if you will not have the things you asked for you probably will die suffering. It’s like ‘to beg’ in a critical situation.

      • bevakasha

        I think I read this in that book; The Painted Bird. Bevakasha!

  • Laura

    Just wanted to add that the “sup-” in “suplicar”, “supplier” and “supplicare” (“to beg” in Spanish, French and Latin/Italian) is the prefix “sub” (same as “subject”, “submission”).
    So in the word itself there is the idea of being inferior to the person/power you’re begging. When you ask, however, you’re talking to an equal. When you start begging an equal you automatically lose your status.

    To me, it also means that you’ve asked before (or you know asking isn’t enough), you rarely just beg once, it’s a process you’ll repeat until you get a yes.

    • WordFucks

      Those who control the language can manipulate the world.

  • Jean

    Howzit! My name is Jean (I’m a French South African living in Portland, OR with a degree in English and Writing). Here’s my two cents: in Afrikaans you can “vra” or you can “smeek” or you can “beedel”. Essentially “vra” is used for everyday comments “eg can you pass the salt” “can you give me a ride”. “Smeek” is used usually to appeal when someone has said no or appear ready to say no. It is to place yourself completely at their mercy. “Beedel” is used specifcally for begging– it is used to create the word “beedelar” which is begger. When someone consistently asks or mooches off their friends this same term is used. It does not take into consideration what may have led to the person begging– instead it makes the person being asked the subject and the person asking the object being acted upon. In Afrikaans it is correct grammar to say “Ek vra” (I ask) and “Ek smeek” (I implore) but never “Ek beedel”– grammatically only other people can “beedel”. Another interesting fact is that when a person uses “vra” it’s usually informal but may be formal– “smeek” is almost always informal” and “beedel” is almost always formal.

    Okay sorry I know this is long, almost done. Finally thing to point out is that in Afrikaans, depending on which social circles/age group you run in, there is also a form to asking. So you wouldn’t say “I want some money” “Ek soek geld” or even “Kan ek geld kry?” “Can I have some money?”. Rather you would say “Mag ek dalk n bietjie geld leen?” Translated directly “may I purhaps borrow a small amount of money” and then usually there is the concept of largess– which means the person being asked would insist that the asker have it and not repay. Then a back and forth would be expected with the asker finally capitulating and accepting the money. Part of this concept is familiar to Americans, especially from the South where the general concept of largess is still culturally recognized.

    Well I hope some of this helps. Good luck with the book! :)

  • Jo

    you have many different options to express yourself in german
    for example you can ask for something by just asking the question.
    you can beg – betteln – but it has a negative connotation, because just beggars beg (i’m not quite sure, if i’m agreeing with that, but hey, can’t do nothing about negative connotation..)
    and if you are really “desperate” you might to implore somebody to help you – flehen/anflehen. like: ich flehe dich an, lass mich das machen roughly translated it means: please, i’m begging you, let me do it.
    there is a lot more and you have to bear the context and the way of how it’s said in mind. a plea for life while you are laughing your ass off might take the seriousness of that matter…

  • Maxi Nil

    In Greek if you translate the word ask is “ρωτάω” (rotao with latins) which is used only when you want to make a question like “I asked him what he thought about blabla…I asked the way to blabla”.When you want something from someone (ask FOR something) then the Greek word is “ζητάω” (zitao with latins).When it comes to begging we use 2 words one is “παρακαλώ” (parakalo with latins) which is used as well to say you’re welcome or please and the other one is “ικετεύω” (iketevo) which is used more like “Im down on my knees”. =-)

  • Claudio Puviani

    While I can offer examples in Italian (ex: chiedere vs pregare vs supplicare), I’d like to point out that English has similar archaic or colloquial uses. You might say, “pray tell me…” or “I beg your pardon” or “I beg to differ” without coming close to praying or begging. In Italian, one might say, “la prego di…,” which literally means “I pray to you to…,” but really just means “please.” Really, when it comes down to it, most languages, including English, use “begging” or similar exaggerations as simple emphasis on “asking” such that the real distinction between asking and colloquially begging is the same difference as between saying that you want something and that you want something more intensely, or between please and pretty please. Which isn’t to say that people don’t actually beg, but they don’t necessarily say straight out, “I beg you.” Most begging sounds more like, “aw, come on,” or “but I really want it,” or just insistent “please” (as opposed to the polite form that people say mechanically). The main difference, regardless of the words that are used, is that asking retains a certain amount of dignity, whereas begging involves losing dignity and figuratively prostrating oneself before another. Desperation has nothing to do with it, though desperation can lead one to sacrifice their dignity. By the way, I’m surprised that you didn’t include the other end of the spectrum in your comparison: demanding. Which leads to another funny linguistic transposition: in French, “to ask” is “demander”, so it is common for French speakers to mistakenly say “I demand” in English when they mean to say “I am asking”, which creates amusing opportunities for people to take offense, especially when it is written and the recipient has no cues like facial expressions or body language or the tone of the person’s voice to gauge the actual intent. :)

  • Reine Brand

    Uh, not a different language, but a slang term- you might have heard the term “dole bludging” here in Australia, which is the one that comes to mind when begging is mentioned. What’s interesting is that “bludge” means both to borrow money off someone, and to be lazy. So it’s frequently used to vilify people- implying that begging and being slack are linked.
    I’d certainly be interested to know if there’s any link between how hard or understanding a cultures term’s for begging are, and how difficult it is to ask for help for someone raised in that culture. Good luck with the book :)

  • terry

    In greek the verb for asking is “ζηταω”. Most of the times asking for us is like demanding. It’s like you don’t have any other choice when someone asks you to do something and if you don’t do it then you are in trouble. It’s considered extremely rude not to do what you are asked, even though you are not obligated to do it and it’s supposed to be a free choice if you do it or not. Anyway, begging is “ζητιανευω or ικετευω” and has a very negative meaning. People usually use it in a bad way to talk about homeless people asking for money or food and almost no one here thinks begging is respectable and decent. Also sometimes begging and asking can be confused and I think it’s because we are not really used to asking the way you say we should. We have falsely made asking and demanding the same thing. Anyway wish more people could understand someday the difference and start asking. It would be a great change

  • Shawn Daniels

    Cool discussion! Other folks have covered how to ask questions and the different connotations of asking words in Latin, but I think it’s worth pointing out that the idiom for “please” is “Amabo te,” literally “I will love you.” OSU Classics says that it regularly appears only in the mouths of women ( and a respectable dictionary only records it in more letters and plays (you certainly don’t see senators saying such things in front of their peers). Rather than playing upon the other person’s kindness, it bribes them with the promise of strengthening a bond and implied reciprocation!

    Thank you, Amanda, you’ve given me a paper to write!

  • Sylvia Moranda Benoit

    I am acadian french. When I want something I say…veux tu?, veux tu s`il vous plait or even as you have pointed out in pics…jai demandé…I asked. The question is what are you asking for Amanda? You know that when you give you should always expect nothing in return. It takes the fun out of giving no? Giving is about allowing. Allowing people to take and to give. Little guilt about the books? Mehh youre still human I guess. If I had the money I would own that book. In the meanwhile I get to listen to your music mainly for free. :)

  • Romaric BM

    Hi, I’m french, but right now I live in South Korea.

    To “demander” and “supplier” (“to ask” and “to beg”), I would add “implorer” which is a bit like “to beg” too.

    An interesting thing with Korean language, is tha t they have a please,
    which would be “hasigi balabnida” and a thank you, “gamsahabnida” but
    they don’t have anything like “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure” (de rien
    in french). So even when you spek english with them you mustn’t
    “overthank” because they feel a bit bad, not knowing what to say, as far as I know. But maybe korean people could tell me if I’m wrong, here.

  • Nagia

    In Arabic, it’s quite complex. I believe the culture itself is very hierarchical/patriarchal (even though it varies across countries and regions), which eventually puts the asker at a lesser status. There is “yatlob” which means to ask or request, there’s “yoreed” to want, and “yaa’mor” to command or demand. There is a word that signifies hopeful asking “rajaa'” and its verb “yarjo” which could be used in your specific context and would have a mix of hopefulness and despair.

    One interesting thought about asking in Arabic, especially in colloquial Arabic, it’s usually centered about the askee not the asker. So the request would be more “can you help me?” rather than “I need your help”

  • Megan Butel

    Once upon a time – artists survived and flourished because they had a wealthy patron. Now we have democracy and capitalism and the arts became another consumable. Perhaps we are moving back to a patronage model – but a democratized one because of the internet. This of course subverts the capitalist/consumer culture which is possibly why so many people get so angry when people (like Amanda) ask to be paid by people who like her stuff. How counterculture and subversive ;-)

    • x

      People get “mad” at Amanda – by which you must mean they are critical of her – because she treats people badly. People to Amanda are to be used and abused at will.

  • TheWOL

    English major here tossing in my two cents’ worth. To me, “ask for” implies (or purports to imply) a certain implicit equality of resources between the asker and the “askee.” It also implies “The ball is now in your court. What you do about it is up to you. Although I might be disappointed or discomfited or inconvenienced if you don’t do as I ask, the world is not going to end because of it.” Words like “beg,” “beseech,” and “implore” imply a inequality of resources. The “one who is begging” (“beggar” has a completely different connotation) has exhausted all their resources and they have come to you as a last resort. If you reply negatively, then you have, in some way, sealed their fate (or thats how they view the situation). Also, as has been pointed out, there can be a social stigma to certain interpretations of the word “beg” (like “beggar”) especially when what is being begged for is money, food or housing that implies these people are begging because they are lazy, shiftless, and are somehow lacking in moral character, else they would not need to beg. This opinion is usually held by those being importuned by someone’s begging for “spare change”. Having someone beg you for something puts the “beggee” in an awkward and uncomfortable social position based on the inequality of resources implied — the haves vs the have nots, and that withholding your resources will somehow cast you in a negative light. (“Beseech” and “implore” are not very “mainstream” words and can have quaint and Victorian overtones. “Begging” also implies a certain amount of desperation, which again can be awkward and uncomfortable for the “beggee.” People tend to react to this awkwardness in various ways, one of which is feeling that they are somehow being manipulated or “played” by the person who is begging. Begging also implies “need.” and there’s another set of uncomfortable reactions and responses associated with dealing with “needy” people.

  • TheWOL

    Ooop! Left out the word “Wheedle” which overtly implies begging coupled with manipulation of some kind such as flattery. This word definitely has a negative connotation implying one manipulates people to get what one wants.
    Reading some of the comments, I get the idea that your request is associated with the concept of “crowd-funding.” I think of crowd-funding as similar to putting up money for a business venture. You contribute money with the understanding that you will get a return on your investment and the one requesting (that’s the verb I’d use — request = would you please?) the funding sets out what kind of return you will get on the amount of money you invest. How much you choose to invest (or not) is entirely up to you. It’s not that much removed from selling something outright. With crowd-funding, only the person requesting the money knows who has contributed, and nobody knows who didn’t contribute, so there’s little or no social stigma attached one way or the other. It’s solely based on whether you like their proposal, want what they’re selling, believe they will make good on their promises, and are willing to wait a relatively long time (months) for what you’ve paid for. I would not associate the word “begging” with crowd-funding. Those who do, clearly don’t understand the concept.

  • Selana

    In a hurry, so can’t check if people already told you this… In German we have several words for asking, that have slightly different meanings:

    “Nach etwas fragen…” – asking for something, asking a question like “Could you do this for me…”
    “Um etwas bitten…” – to request something, has more urgency, more like “Would you please do this for me…”
    “Um etwas betteln…” – negative connotation, kind of like “Beg for something…” in English

  • nana

    i am also from vienna. magdalena does indeed speak the truth. there’s waltzing in the heart of viennese people and so it is in our language.
    there is a similar way of sweet demand, which is basically asking for a favour. ( i will join in the example of beer, because, hell yeah, it’s beer.)
    so the question goes: “don’t you want to bring me a beer?”. (“magst du mir nicht ein bier bringen?”) its intend translates to: “hey, bring me a beer!” but with lots of sugar sprinkled on top. if you’re lucky, there’s a “please” (“bitte”) thrown in there, but that’s rather just a sentence adornment than an actual nice gesture.
    if you don’t bring beer, you’re just a jerk.
    vienna is a city where you receive hand-kisses and back-stabs at the same time. just know how to waltz the waltz.
    and again i agree with magdalena, i have moved to los angeles, and the once so easily comprehended linguistic ballet is now not understood at all.

    • Finn

      “vienna is a city where you receive hand-kisses and back-stabs at the same time. ”
      I love that. It’s very well said and so true.
      I don’t know how many times I haven’t been sure if what I had just received was a compliment or an insult.

      • Michaela Mab Hamajova

        But we love Vienna all the same! ;) I’ve been living in Vienna for a few years now, and only now realize that I joined in the dance by using all these sentences without even thinking about it, but yes they mean exactly what you guys say, and there is no doubt about the meaning ;)

  • Ron Mogli

    Hello there, I am gonna give an input, not academic, but might be interesting.

    To beg, in the Hebrew dictionary is defined as to plea– ask for with a measure of desperation. The word itself sounds remarkably like the same word used for pardon [Khanina] (as for a crime committed), or asking for mercy.

    To ask, in Hebrew, comes from the root of the word request. Literally the one word used “Be’vakasha” translates as in-request. So when you ask something you put in a request, which may be honored or not…

    When you beg, you add a measure of desperation, and asking for mercy

  • Kristina Sarkhanyants

    Dozens of comments from Francophones, Spaniards, Germanspeakers etc. but all these languages have so many common things. I’ve been studying French since I’ve been 6 or 7 years old, so when I started Spanish in the university, I almost had no difficulties (same about Portuguese). Now gonna speak about my native – Russian.

    In Russia if you want to ask smb about smth ot to do smth you can use «просить»: «Они попросили ее исполнить эту песню» is for They
    asked her to sing that song. You can also use «пожалуйста» which is for “please”: «Пожалуйста, убери в комнате» – Please, clean up that mess in yr room. We have many words for this idea of asking in the street, very humiliating, and we can use it in a metaphorical way: «побираться», «попрошайничать». What is more important – the intonation you give. You can use «просить», but say it with such a tone that it would sound (and mean) like begging, smth shameful, humiliating and improper.

  • Sarai Navot

    I’m from Israel, and the word for “please” (bevakasha בבקשה) is also the word for “you’re welcome” (“thank you” “bevakasha no problem”).(the word for asking is”levakesh” לבקש). there’s no “dance” around asking, if you need something you, well, just ask for it from your family or friends, and they’re almost accepected to help, because that’s what we do. There’s a strong feeling of comradeship, which I think is shown with the words for please and you’re welcome being the same. also even asking ppl on the street if your stuck, most of the time- ppl will help you. my personal example for that is when I was about 16 and it was 3AM in not the best area in Tel Aviv, an ex-friend wanted to go be with this guy she had a crush on and basically left alone in the middle of the street. 2 women saw me standing there almost in tears, walked up to me made sure I’m ok and had some money, found me a taxi and sent me home. all of that without even asking.

    • Anon

      Don’t leave this girl alone with any handsome Israeli women. Let that be a lesson to everyone here. Oh and bevakasha.

    • Shira Arieli

      I’m also from Israel and I’d like to add to what Sarai said-
      to beg in hebrew is להתחנן (lehitchanen) but in meaning it refers to pleading or begging- but not in the sense of asking for money on the street. for begging for money on the street we have- לקבץ נדבות which translates something like “to gather donations” and a beggar is קבצן (kabtzan) but that word usually has a bad connotation.

      but today in modern language (not just hebrew) asking is a polite way of demanding, one doesn’t only ask if you could do something or not, one expects you to do it.

  • Jana Sobotková

    Hi AFP (you´re great by the way) ;)
    I just have an idea. Not really academically linguistic…but just naturally it came into my mind. And that´s the word “koledovat” in czech (I am from Czech Republic, Prague). “Koledovat” means probably something very similar to english verb “to carol”. And we say it when somebody sort of “provoke the fate” or “the luck”…> he is just asking for (somenthing maybe not very nice, but if he got a chance, he may gain something really great; even if there is not much of believers) – I hope it´s understandable ;)
    And also – children who carol (same as in many countries) are asking for something sweet while singing ;)
    (Actually in Czech Republic, on Easter Day, men carol – to have some shorts-drinks) ;)
    I think that all of this mixed together makes a nice impression from word “to ask” :)
    Good luck with your book and all that learning around it!

  • Kara Mullison

    One of the first things I learned in Latin is the idiom “amabo te” – “I will love you (if)…” which means please. Draw your own conclusions, I just think it’s interesting!

  • A.

    Poland here!
    In Polish, “to ask” is firstly translated as “pytać”, which means “to make question”, f.ex. about the weather, how are you, and so on. But when you eant to “ask for something”, you use the verb “prosić”. It’s quite neutral. To beg would be translated as “błagać”. It’s far stringer and implies that you have no power whatsoever, you can only rely on the mercy of the others.

    • Aenyeweddien

      I will write here as I am from Poland as well. A. translated the words correctly and that is what they mean. There is also “to pray” – “modlić się” and it mostly is used when praying to god, but sometimes is used as to beg without stop, lamenting to someone for something.

      The thing that made me wonder is that we don’t use these words when actually asking/begging/pleading. When asking about something we simply pose an open question.
      “Idziemy na piwo?” Literally translates to “Are we going to drink a beer somewhere?” but it can translate to “Would you like to go drink some beer?” or “Let’s go drink a beer!”. Of course there are some more polite forms like “Masz ochotę na piwo?” but their politeness is more like suggesting that person asked with more probability will refuse. While “Idziemy na piwo?” kinda expects enthusiastic “YES! Let’s go!”, the “Masz ochotę a piwo?” says that we are ready to hear “Sorry, but no, I’m not in a mood.”. And if you make the question sound even more like “maybe, would you like; I wondered if you want to…” and such it makes “A może miałbyś ochotę pójść na piwo?” (literally: “Maybe would you like to go drink a beer?”) and it suggests that you are ready take no for an answer, you know there is high probability the answer is no. But still you might feel bad about somebody’s refusal.

      Polish people won’t ask something like “Please, lend me money/ your car”. I mean the “please” part. I you add the “please” you are not simply asking, it’s more like begging already, but of course you can go even lower, to beg on your knees.

      But there is formal usage for “proszę” – “please”. In sentences like “Poproszę masło” when you are buying and it is actually sugar coated order. The seller can’t tell you he is not giving you the butter (“masło”) you requested, but you’re being polite here to not sound so harsh.

      In Poland people rarely ask for something. I think it’s because we don’t like to show our needs. We propose things in a manner that says that even when the other person refuses we can act as nothing happened.

      For the people begging on the street we have another word: “żebrać”. But you can use it in a context like “żebrać o miłość” – “Beg for love”. And it would mean that a person goes around just begging everybody they meet to love them. It is not connected to going to a specified person to beg them about something. It is like begging everyone you see, no matter friend or stranger. And it kind of gives you a label of “attention whore”.

      And a little note about Japanese people. I kind of feel sorry for those who are staying longer in Poland. Their culture is so polite and indirect that when they come to Poland and get in contact with people that are not afraid to say what they thing and refuse the sweetest propositions it must be like train running you over. At least that’s what I get from them when I not really thinking about answer very directly as it is just the way I am. It takes much consideration to talk to them in a matter that won’t leave them feeling bad. And I am still learning that, slowly, too slow I think…

      Well, I was thinking while writing and I think it shows. If I get any more thoughts about it I’ll write some more.

      • Aenyeweddien

        I just remembered something. It is about asking for money. For rising a fund we use polite ways, but it does not imply some humiliation. It is simply asking if you want to contribute toward some goal. When you are asking personally it can be from just funny request to a very humble request. It depends on our relationship to the person asked (but more like real closeness than for example blood relation) and our situation. If we can name a goal we need that money for, then in most cases it is ok and the answer more depends on whether the person asked likes our goal. ;)

        Well… I can say to my superior “Wyskakuj z kasy!” when I am going to buy breakfast for us. It is a way a robber would say “Give me the money!”. He is my superior but we drank vodka together, we call each other nicknames and he knows he is going to get his money back (or a sandwich bought with his money :D). And when it comes to business and work we are good kids playing along the formalities. Not all people are like that, but it is something I like about this guy. It is kind of another waltz, we are pretending to be more harsh (I don’t know another word for it… direct? sorry… I am not that good at english) than we really are and there is a joke in it.

      • mmichalu

        Hiya there :) I’m Polish, too, and I pretty much agree on what A. and Lucy have said about the ways Polish people express asking for something and begging (although I’m not sorry for Japanese people who come to Poland and have to deal with are culture more than I would be for Polish people who have to deal with Japanese culture in Japan when it comes to honorifics – come on, that what cultural differences are for, I don’t think anyone should be sorry for anything here :) let’s embrace it!)
        Even though written and spoken languages often differ from one another, I just wanted to add what I’ve found in The Dictionary of Polish Language on “prosić”, “błagać” and “żebrać”:
        prosić: 1. in a polite form, to ask someone to do something or for something; 2. to express a proposition with words or a gesture; 3. to offer a position/a post to someone; 4. in a polite form, to ask someone to come over or to pay us a visit; 5. in a polite form, to ask someone to come inside; 6. in a polite form, to ask someone on the other side of the line to receive our call; 7. about animals, especially about a dog: to strike a pose in order to receive a reward or a snack
        So it’s generally a polite verb, but when I think about it, an expression “prosić i.e. po ludziach”, which is quite informal, uses the same verb but in a meaning of “to beg, go around begging for something from people”. It’s quite the same with the expression “prosić się” (which seems like a passive form of “prosić”) but means (at least I get it like this) in an informal way to persistently, stubbornly ask for something. “Prosić się” (ususally “o coś” – for something) can also mean “you’re asking for it”, like in a threath.
        The verb “błagać: to ask for something persistently AND humbly”, as I feel it, means you are begging for something, and it is somewhat desperate but it doesn’t have to be all that shameful – you can somewhat maintain your dignity and honour if you do it, like heroins in the old books.
        But “żebrać” (1. to ask for alms; 2. to ask persistently for something) is begging without dignity and honour, usually in a physical meaning, but also, like Lucy said, for love or for attention.
        Oh boy, sorry it’s so long, but I hope it’s useful.

      • A.

        Wow, you made a great analysis of our language, I’m totally impressed.
        Btw. I met several Japanese students here, in Poland, and they all say that after being here a while they became more open and “decided” – I guess we Europeans would simply call it “assertive”. And they are generally happy about that change, so I think it’s something positive, even if very shocking at first.
        PS. Love your nickname <3

  • zarvik

    Just to add in another language. In Estonian we have:
    Kerjama – to beg. Beggar is “Kerjus”. Mainly negative.
    küsima – to ask, neutral
    toetama – to support someone (also this is the term used in Estonian version of kickstarter) However it can mean whatever support (emotional, physical, material…)

    • Triinu Meres

      Well, I’d say it’s much more complicated.

      In Estonian we have:
      “kerjama” = which is what beggars do as a proffesion, and this is a word with strong negative feeling behind it. But it is NOT begging, because
      “anuma” = begging. If you beg for forgivness, its “anuma” not “kerjama”. If you beg your ex-lover to return, its “anuma”. If you are totally broke and desperate and beg a loan from your not-so-good-friend, it’s “anuma”. “Anuma” means you are ready to give up your regular dignity and position and pride yo get this thing you are begging for – and probably is a right word to match “begging”.
      Then there is “paluma” – which is many things. It’s polite way to ask for something from anyone, you say it to vendor or your husband or your kids, its simply polite way to ask.
      It’s also a word for something like begging, but in lighter form – I’m ready to give up a small piece of my dignity and pride to get this thing I’m asking for, I accept that you are above me right now and so I “palun”: please, can I have this? But “paluma” generally is not desperate. If you don’t get, what you want, you can simply walk away and no harm is done to anyone’s dignity.
      Then there is “küsima”. It means “posing a question” and it is totally neutral. Yes, you can ask a favor (fo a lift, for example) asking: “Will you take me home?” But it is “küsima” because it’s a question, not because you asked a favor. If you say “Please, give me lift today” its no longer “küsima” (asking), its “paluma”. (Because of “please”, “palun”).

  • nicolagatti

    Etymologically speaking in Italian, Chiedere (asking) is simply ask something in general (begging included), it comes from latin Quaerere that comes Quaesitum (question). Elemosinare (begging) it comes from latin Mendicus (poor) and this is the italian vocabulary definition of Elemosinare (begging): [try to get something with humble words and without dignity. ]

    Personally, I find curious that despite Italy is a very Catholic country the “act of begging” is considered “without dignity”…

    • pinsky

      interesting, that is a word in English too (although a bit jargony): eleemosynary.

  • Helene

    In Sanskrit for example the word for “beg” has a postitive connotation because spiritual leaders begged for food, clothes and so on. They had to take what was given to them. Eat meat even if it opposed their religion because gratitude was more important.
    The rise of mendicant orders in the Middle Ages shows us how the connotation can change. The words mostly exist for hundreds or thousands of years. It all depends on our cultural/religious/personal interpretation.
    Buddha asked and Jesus asked. It is not important if you call it begging or not. What is important is the way you feel about it. If you are ashamed: take it as a hint and become the person/create the art/give the love that is worth receiving something in response.

  • Inari

    In Finnish, you have the verb for asking questions (kysyä) and the verb for asking for something to be done (pyytää). Then there’s the verb for begging for somebody to do something in the sense of usually repeatedly asking for it in a more or less desperate tone (anella). The verb for begging in the streets is kerjätä, and the person doing it is a kerjäläinen. This word can also be used in phrases like “he was begging for attention” (Hän kerjäsi huomiota) or “she was asking for it” (Hän kerjäsi sitä, as an explanation of why somebody had to be beaten up), so regardless of what the actual action is, the word tends to have an irritated or pitying tone.

  • Lerato Majikfaerie

    In several languages one doesn’t ask or say please.
    Phrases like ‘please pass the salt’ are simply the command ‘give salt’.
    In Hebrew, saying ‘please’ can seem ironic and rude.
    In Hindi they created an artificial word for ‘thank you’ to suit the English, but no one uses it.

    I think language has a deep effect on the way we think and perceive the world.

    • Sarai Navot

      I speak Hebrew and I don’t quite agree with you. NOT saying “please” and just saying “give salt” or just “pass the salt” with a please in the end would be considered very rude

      • Lerato Majikfaerie

        Yes, adding ‘bevakasha’ on the end is often done sarcastically and considered rude.

        Also, arguing over the nuances of correct Hebrew is one of the Israeli national pastimes ;)

    • Nira

      I’m from Israel and speak Hebrew as well, and we definitely DO use “please” when asking for things… it’s considered rude not to, unless you’re talking with a close friend.

      • Lerato Majikfaerie

        אני גם .
        In my experience, please is only used in formal situations.

  • Uddina

    “Chiedere è lecito, rispondere è cortesia” (Italian)
    You can roughly translate it with “Asking (this is usually about “information”) is allowed, answering is courtesy”. So it is implicit that when you ask, the response can also be negative, but it a response *should* be given.

    “Begging” could be translated with “implorare” (with a strong and desperate meaning) or “pregare” (which means also “pray”), depending on what the “beggar” wants: is he/she in desperate need and wants you to see that, without hiding his/her feelings (“implorare”) or is he/she desperate, but principally refers to your (high -he/she hopes) level of empathy (“pregare”)?

    • Uddina

      Funny is the fact that etymologically:

      “chiedere” (to ask) comes from a verb which meant “to desire”.
      “implorare” (one of the meanings of begging) comes from a verb that meant “to cry a lot”
      “pregare” (which means both “praying” or “beg”) comes from a Sanskrit root that meant “ask” or “question”…

  • Tereza Tofiam

    Hi, I am from The Czech Republic and in my language “asking” – žádat – is something like “I want it in polite manners but not to bother you”. So, it’s mostly like Magdalena Waitforit Brossmann wrote. (Not Strange, Vienna is like 400 Km from where I live.)¨But in my country, you have to agree that assingment. Like: “Hey, it would be great to bring some beer.” And your quote: “Which one?” or “I’ll try.” If you do not, noone expect you to do.
    On the other hand, this is just with friends or mates. When aks something from a complete strange or some one who is higher than you by the ettiquette, it means that you… usually want to prove something. Or that you demand. We usually do not use “asking” with stranger. Only in way: “May I ask you something?” and there will be no question after because with that phrase you usually seek for help. This is polite one. But as I said, with stranger we shouldn’t be asking much. “I ask your pardon” – we demand to be pardoned or pardon from that person. “I ask you to explain” – I demand explanation. “I asked you to bring this” – bosses use asking to employees.

  • Sabi

    Magdalena and nana from Vienna are totally right. I’m from Austria too – from Vorarlberg – and it’s the same thing here. People use to ask for something, often in a very polite way. But what they really mean is “I want you to do this”.

    In German “to ask” means “um etwas fragen” (lat. quaerere, interrogare) or also “um etwas bitten” (lat. rogare). Sometimes there’s not really a difference between it. For example – to ask for a favor, ask for help.
    „To beg“ could also mean „um etwas bitten“ but in a more desperate way. Other
    meanings of “to beg” are “betteln” (lat. mendicare; “To beg for money or food”
    when you are poor.) or “flehen”, which is a very desperate way of asking (lat. precari, supplicare / English: to plead for something; supplication).

    I think that asking means that there is an option. The person is aware that the answer could be Yes or No but it’s ok ‘cause life goes on. “To beg” is kind of
    desperate, an impasse. As Friedrich Schiller wrote: “Sein Flehen dringt zu
    keinem Retter”

  • Cédric Bouvier

    To me, to beg translates to “mendier” in French. The thing beggars (“mendiants”) do: begging for money, or food. There’s a sense of urgency, the idea that they do that as a desperate measure, lest they die of hunger. When I give money to a beggar, (or to a charity like “Les Restos du Cœur”), it is to help him survive, and with the hope that he will eventually get out of his misery, get a real job, and quit begging (just as I still hope that someday, “Les Restos du Cœur” won’t be needed anymore)

    OTOH, when Amanda Palmer asks for some money, to do something with it, I give, but with the hope that, thanks to my contribution, and contributions from many others, she won’t ever need to “get a real job”, and won’t ever have to quit doing what she’s doing.

  • Rikke Bergmann

    I’m Danish and in many ways we are close to Sweden. We also have ‘at tigge’ meaning to beg.
    I’ve been through a rough year where I’ve been homeless and I still don’t have money enough to get by properly. I’m very aware not to ask too much of my friends and family, I don’t want to beg – I’ll rather be hungry. I loathe asking for money. When it comes to money I always feel like I’m begging.
    And begging is something shameful, asking is more dignified for some reason.

    • Cara

      I hope things work out for you, Rikke.

      It’s similar in Norwegian as well. The word “tigging” (act of begging) is almost regarded the same as stealing.

  • Dani Leis

    I’ve been living in Thailand for more than a year. I just looked up ‘ask’ in google translate and found 16 Thai words, all for ‘ask’. This is not surprising from a culture that values courtesy as a social glue. Generally non-confrontational, Thai’s don’t even say “no”, they say “not yes”. Thai people are very generous and helpful in my experience, and learn to consider carefully what they ask from others because people may feel obliged to give it. Mai ben rai (don’t worry about it) is a common refrain to excuse people who couldn’t meet your request, otherwise loss of face might ensue.

  • Agatha Katsia

    Ok, so I’m bilingual. In Russian, it is about what you ask that makes the difference…begging is just asking very very intensively. In Greek ha! there’s some variety… you could say ask, which derives from the word for “PLEASE” ( parakalo) , and means just ask basically… it is used interchangeably with demand (zitao), which is not necessarily that “demanding”. For example I ask for your help, your donations etc would be formed with demand rather than ask. Thirdly there is a desperate form “ekliparo” which means basically to implore, and is very emotionally charged.
    So I would say in Greek, the hierarchy goes : demand ( generally ask on equal terms) -> ask politely (meaning he used the word please) :P -> implore/beg (ask very emotionally)

    So I guess greeks aren’t that ashamed of asking…or even demanding. After all the social bonds are quite tight, it is normal to help each other out. That’s what expected ( or at least was, traditionally)

  • Lucy

    I don’t know about asking, but I do know about “rules,” which might be relevant in some tangential way. In english, the world “rule” is related to the word, “Ruler”, so the word is attached to a sense of authority. Rules are ruled upon by the ruler. Rules come from above. Rules are given to us little people by the ruler.

    In french, the word for “rule” is “regle” (I don’t know how to do the accent on the first e) and it stems from the verb “regler”, which means, “to agree, to settle upon.” In french, when you talk about a rule or a law, you are referring to it as essentially a “settled upon thing.” It implies cooperation and democracy. Rather than rules coming from a ruler, we all agree on “settled upon things” that we abide by.

    Somewhat interesting that the french are so much more liberal and cooperative than the Americans — it’s encoded in their very language. Cool, huh?

  • Viole Rodrigo

    Hi Amanda!
    When you asked the other day the question about asking and begging and I started thinking about what to answer I ended up thinking: “Woah, there’s a whole world about this in spanish.”
    And just point that I am speaking from a spanish from Spain speaker perspective, cause sometimes it varies a lot from Spain to South America and the other way around.

    Pedir – To ask for. Neutral.

    To ask from an authority position we use:
    Requerir – require, also demand politely, mild connotations.
    Demandar – demand, the connotations can be a bit ambiguous at times with this one).
    Exigir – demand but very bossy.

    Then, to ask from weakness positions:

    Rogar – Translated in as beg, plead, pray, if you mash those three up you get the connotation. People who go to church use “rogar” in their daily prayers: “rogamos al Señor”. Rogar has submissive connotations, and people use it to address God cause they obviously think he’s way more awesome but in your need you are able to keep sort of calm.

    Implorar – Beg, implore. Well, as implore exists in english I guess we’re understanding each other here. “Implorar” is like “Rogar”, but more intese and desperate.

    Then we get to beg itself. “Beg” covers a series of words in Spanish, as we’ve seen (probably more than I wrote there, I’m no linguist). But when it comes to translating beg to spanish the dictionary goes straight to “Mendigar” which is to ask for money/food on the street. The same way in English you have the word “beggar” we use the word mendigo for someone who asks for money in the streets.

    Now idioms and old wisdom drops, spanish is full of them:

    “Pedir peras al olmo” – Literally translates as “Asking for pears from the elm tree” which obviously means that you are asking for someone to do something that they can’t do because it is not in their skillset or capabilities.

    Like Duffy begs for mercy we “Implorar clemencia” but also “Pedir clemencia”, which is more neutral and has less submissive connotations, goes with the “being proud” part of the deal of being from where I am from.
    Even on your knees, you don’t beg in spanish. You ask. “Pedir de rodillas”, neutral. Of course you are begging but you just won’t call it that.

    “Contra el vicio de pedir está la virtud de no dar” – Against the vice of asking there is the virtue of not giving. I think that reflects well how we see begging in spanish culture.

    “Dar es honor, pedir es dolor” – To give is virtue, to ask is pain. Wait, wasn’t not giving the virtue? Confusing. But still, you can see a pattern of thought about the whole thing.

    “Dar para recibir no es dar sino pedir” – Give to receive is no giving, but asking.

    “Quien da lo que tiene a pedir se queda” – Who gives what he has will need to beg. Pedir in here has the “asking for money in the street” connotation here.

    “El que al pedir abusa a cambio recibe una excusa.” – Who asks for too much is given an excuse in return. This is interesting cause it talks asking protocols.

    Someone who asks a lot in Spain is called “Pedigüeño” (I dare you to pronounce it.). Wordreference redirects you to “beggar” when you get there, but that’s not it. Sometimes and in some places they are called that but “pedigüeño” is someone who asks, not only a lot, but also in an innopportune manner.

    We have also some positive old sayings:
    En el pedir no hay engaño – There’s no deception in asking.

    There’s a history in Spain of begging connected to guile, we even have a whole literary genre about it, the picaresque. Mine is a country in which people ask a lot and in a very direct manner and sometimes they mean to take advantage of you. When someone is not being straight forward about asking something you yourself ask them to tell you already what they want.
    And of course, in a country of “askers” the lore warns against giving and that conforms our idea of asking and begging as mostly negative, needy.

    This got long. I hope it is of use.

    • Félix Marqués

      We have such a sad history with Catholic morals and guilt. :/

  • Toby Teh

    I’m from Malaysia, of Chinese descent but I grew up around 3 major races/religions, and speak the languages of two of those people. Both languages seem to have a clear distinction between the noun ‘Beggars’ and the verb ‘Begging’. Beggars (“Qi Gai” in Mandarin and “Pengemis” in Malay) are the homeless people on the street, and carry the usual connotations: filthy, untouchable parasites of society.

    There are terms similar to ‘begging’ in Malay and Chinese, but they usually carry connotations similar to ‘beseeching’ or ‘pleading’ (“Qiu” in Mandarin and “Merayu” in Malay), usually used to imply asking for something intangible, like mercy or justice.

    In these cultures, people asking for money (especially from friends and family) are usually looked upon with scorn and mistrust, certainly by people outside that social circle. We do have donations drives for religious or social purposes (not many political ones as far as I can remember), but if someone comes out and directly asks for money, we’re immediately suspicious.

  • OceanWaves

    In the German language there is a saying: “Fragen kostet nichts”, meaning “asking doesn’t cost anything”. Now you can see it in the economical way but also in a more generel way. I quite like that saying because so many people are afraid to ask for something, even the simplest thing such as asking for directions or for information because they are sort of embarrassed or afraid of strangers’ reactions. But what is the worst that could happen? Maybe they won’t answer you, maybe they will or cannot help you but that’s all, so asking actually won’t backfire at you, the world is not going to end, but still many pepole don’t dare to ask for something. Because they are afraid the answer will be “no”.

  • Jenna Dela Rosa

    Hi Amanda! I’m from the Philippines and speak Tagalog (it’s not Filipino, as some might think, ‘Tagalog’ is the language, ‘Filipino’ is our nationality), and yeah… asking, begging and begging for money each have different connotations depending on how we say it.

    We say “tanong” (question) or Nagtatanong (asking) when we’re asking about something like… “May tanong ako.” (I have a question) of “Nagtatanong lang ako” (I’m just asking). It’s considered more… respectful, it seems, particularly when used in the proper tone and address to the person you’re talking to.

    “Pagma-maka-awa” is our term of begging, though it’s more used in the lines for begging for mercy or help. Like, “Nagmamaka-awa ako, hayaan mo akong mabuhay!” (I’m begging you, let me live! [Yeah, I know… it’s a mouthful to be begging for your life XD)

    But when it comes to begging for money, we say “palimos”… which is what most homeless people in my country asks, although I think it’s more like “alms for the poor” in the US. I think “limos” is more used for those who truly have nothing, and sometimes frowned upon our society, because sometimes, beggars use the money we give them to buy solvents (like rugby… there are some people addicted to it, like cocaine) or they are actually a part of a syndicate that uses street children to get money. Some churches here in the Philippines help them through feeding programs rather than giving them alms. Like the church near our house, which accepts food (particularly eggs, since they’re cheap and can yeild so many) to distribute to the poor.

    I’m not really a linguist, I’m just a librarian who seemed to have forgotten her lessons in our Filipino subject back in school (damn it)… I just thought I’d help. Hope that a Tagalog linguist could expand on this more.

    On a more funnier note, in my language, there is such a sentence as “Bababa ba?”. It means “Will it go down?”. Heard a couple of foreigner trying to say it, and it was quite funny yet cute. XD

    • Jo Mich

      Hi Amanda, I’m Greek. The difference between ask (“zitao”) and beg (“iketeuo” and “ekliparo”) is not very different than in english. It is not common though to use the greek begging words when actually begging for money. It’s quite common for people in Greece, beggars or not, to use the imperative form to ask, adding “please” so that it doesn’t sound rude. So it’s something like “Please, give me some change and be in great health”. Of course, if a person is really polite they say “could you please give me…), but not as often as I’d like to. Statements (I’d like…) or orders (do this for me) are more common. Also there is not a word for crowdfunding in greek, but I think that for greeks it has nothing to do with begging, as you give money in exchange for a service or a cause.

  • pinsky

    Interesting thoughts on English.
    -‘sue’ is now used for ‘demand using law'; it used to be ‘request’, or ‘undertake requesting’, that is embark on a course of request, which may well involve quest. The knights who went off to wage wars in order to be considered good enough to marry some nobleman’s daughter did so in the process of their suit.
    -‘please’ is now just a formality, a appendage that is meaningless in itself in a sentence but transforms a demand into a request, or an exhortation when used alone. It once was ‘if you please’, which is to say ‘do this if it suits you': the modern usage is more ‘if you do this i will be grateful’, with no regard given to convenience for the person asked.
    -on the dance of request: we in NZ have something similar, which is ‘do you want to []?’ It’s used for small requests, such as ‘do you want to pass the milk?’ or ‘do you want to bring some beer along?’. It is used among friends, that is, it’s a bit presumptuous to use on mere acquaintances. It’s also not something easily denied without coming off as a bit of a jerk. If you’ve got a good excuse for not doing it that’s generally fine, but otherwise the impression you give is that you don’t value the friendship enough to do this one little thing.

  • Klarka Vozabova

    Czech here. What I find most important is our frequent use of negative when asking for/about something – “couldn’t you help me?” or “wouldn’t you have time?” or “don’t you have bread?” instead of “could/would/do you…,” which is (unlike English) more polite. To me, it’s a distinction between asking and demanding, as if giving the person the option to say no. An American friend of mine considers it a relict of communism as the shops were empty and so we knew they would most likely be out of whatever we need, and so we were counting on a negative reply when asking like this. I think it’s historically older though.

    • Michal Navrátil

      yea, and in Czech, we can use a variety of expressions for that, e.g.:

      to ask for something = požádat o něco, poprosit o něco… – these feel like a neutral/polite way to say that you want somebody to do something/give you something

      to beg for something = žebrat, žadonit, škemrat, doprošovat se – these feel like you really really really want something and you put yourself into an inferior position to persuade someone to do something/give you something

      Klarka: I’m like 100% sure that communism has nothing to do with that. funny idea, though :))

      • Klarka Vozabova

        No, I don’t believe it does, but I found an outsider’s perspective really interesting :))

  • Beate

    is much the same as Swedish. Reading and writing in English, I seldom translate it to Norwegian, even in my head. But if I stop, and try to find the Norwegian equivalent of begging, I find it hard. I Norwegian we have the word for ask, “spørre” or “be” (which also means pray). For begging thought, we use the word “tigge”. But the use of that word is not completely the same as begging. It is what beggars do. And if you use the term of other kind of asking, is feels like you look down on the person doing int. “He begs! I can’t stand him.” It is also the word we use when animals stand by the table and make sounds because they want to share your food, and you find them not well behaved. If you have an animal that begs by the table, other people will tell you off for not having educated them well.

    It is also used as a word to describe other people’s behaviour towards you in a negative way: “He made me beg. ““They made me feel like I did not deserve it and that I was in a position where I needed to beg for something that should have been given freely.” To do that to people is considered very rude indeed.

    Being in a society that for many years has strived to make people equal, where everyone are supposed to get what they need begging is considered rude. And making people feel like they need to beg is also considered rude.

    I get the impression that you do not necessarily have the same negative association with the world in English, but the problem for us not native speakers is that there might be a nuance that we lose.

    So what do we use when it is “begging” but not with this negative connotation? It is more like this “I ask in my deep need”. “I am sorry to ask you this, but I am in deep need of”. “Could you please, please help me, this situation very hard”. We would use the word “be” not “spørre”. “Be” often is just “spørre”, but “be”
    might also be what we use when we are in deep need; the “spørre” would not be used. “Spørre” is also more often used when you just want an answer to something, while “be” might be asking for help with doing something. Like when you ask in English, “Excuse me, may you please help me with…”

    • Beate

      About asking nicely in Norwegian, some people here have pointed out how you ask very nicely in Spanish “Por favour”. You have the same polite way of asking in English “Please, could you…” We do not have the “please” used in this way in Norwegian. (Which made me feel utterly bad one time in London as a teenager, I forgot the “please”
      and was given a long lecture from the one person selling me tickets in the underground about how utterly rude and what a bad person I was talking to him in such a rude way. He just stopped when my eyes started to water and I told him how very sorry I was, that I was not an English, speaker, that it was not my intention to be rude and so on and so on.)

      So, we do not have the “magic word”, but we do show respect in the way we ask, and also the body language, the tone of voice and our face gestures. This is very subtle and a lot harder than to say “please” or “por favour”. And it is harder to learn for foreigners. The worst part is that we do not recognise this or are able to see through what we find rude for people who have not learned this code. We expect an interaction where you smile, where you say “Hello! Could you, may you, excuse me” or some other words to start the sentence. If you just start by saying “I will have.. Give me… etc that is not good. In a familiar setting is just the tone, or the “song” of the sentence that gives the difference between rude and not rude. The words might be exactly the same. “Give me that”.

    • Daniel Hansen

      The Norwegian word in-between begging and asking would be “bønnfalle” (lit. “prayer fall” — supplicate).
      It is also worth noticing, like Beate is already mentioning, that the Norwegian language is very blunt, derived of most forms of polite forms, and often express things in fewer words than other languages. Grunting, nodding or having things implied is usually the preferred method of communcation, and the Norwegian people have by default an affinity for understatements, preferring phrases like “not bad” over “loving it”. It took me years to understand that people were actually giving me compliments despite sounding like passive-aggressive jerks xD

      • Beate

        So true
        what you write. And yes, we have the world «bønnfalle», but it is not commonly used,
        it has very archaic sound, like something you find in old novels and poems.

        About grunt
        and understatements, in my dialect you can even find old people saying after a nice
        dinner made for them “tasted awful”. As
        short for “tasted awfully good” because of the strange way we have of using awful
        as “very”. So, tasted very good, is expressed “tasted awfully good” shortened
        to “tasted awful”. (Smakte fælt!)

  • Melanie Katopodis


    I’m from Berlin, Germany.I spent some ttime in the states and with native speakers. Even so people tell me my English (only talking, sorry I am not able to write correctly in any language. it’s a spelling issue) is not too bad I always have that difficulty that I am never sure whether I can translate a word directly from English to German or vice versa. Some words sound alike and have a similar meaning but then again the meaning it gets by society can be really different. Mostly because the meaning always depends on the value society is giving hto certain lifestyles.

    Like when I was in New York whenever I heard the word “success” I listened very carefully. It always gave me the impression that the word has a much higher value for people then it has in Berlin. While in Berlin we are quite laid back (or at least like to pretend that we are) in New York everybody was so eager to reach any goal. The ways of reaching are kind of the same: you work harder then anybody else and you invest more money then anybody. If you don’t have money, you kindly have to ask for it.
    I learnt asking together with my friend’s from New York Film Academy. It was an international bunch. View native English speaker. And you could see hiw people from different countries with different background used different words for describing their way of asking for money. Some avoided the fact that they had to ask for it and just stated on who is paying in the end like:”my boyfriend/mother/grand-dad is going to give me $….” some admitted they had “asked” somebody for “financial support”. Some only talked of “funding” because it sounded more professional. But whenever you talked to them alone and they were frustrated about their projects they would say things like “gosh, I hate begging for money”.

    So, yes, begging is a word which for me and my international friends was used in a very negative way. it is connected to “not being successful enough” and therefore being “forced to ask” for money. In my experience people try to avoid the word begging and they avoid to let their asking sound like begging.
    In Berlin homeless or poor people often sell newspaper (we got several newspapers only being sold by homeless). Most people give them money without buying a paper. And sometimes when they only got one newspaper left they ask you not to take their last newspaper because once the last paper is sold they are officially begging.

    I think it is far more interesting which words people are using to avoid the word begging. And the words they use instead say a lot about how much they value what they got to offer.
    Frim strong to week:
    Ich fordere – i demand your support
    Ich frage – i ask for the possibility of help
    Ich bitte – i am politely asking for iyour help
    Ich bettel – i am begging you

  • Martin Seelig

    Hi everyone, i ‘m from Germany.
    And for Germans in general and me in particular it ‘s important to be staight forward and that your/my conversation-partner is staight forward.
    I ‘m wrighting this here becouse i think, asking someone for something is straight forward, just asking, without any expectations and implications.

  • Iris

    I’m from Mexico, so my native language is Spanish. I just saw a lot of people talking about the differences between asking/pedir & begging/rogar, so I’m just going to explain how I perceive them, because I don’t think I read how I see it in any of their comments.

    If I translate “beg” into spanish it gives me “mendigar” or “pedir limosna” which both can be translated back into English with “beg”, but “panhandling” is a better translation for that.

    It’s funny because if I were to read “he was begging for something”, I wouldn’t think of that person on their knees, with their hands together, crying and all (like what you see if you google it up). I would see it in a more desperate attempt at getting something he has already asked for. I think begging gets lost in translation, at least with Spanish. In here you only beg/pray to God or for your life, or little kids that really really want that new videogame or candy or whatever. Begging is a big word, it’s for giving whatever you want an emphasis. You don’t beg for money, you panhandle.

    Where I live, whenever someone is in need of money, people usually do raffles or hamburguesadas. Say, you need money for a surgery, so you buy a tablet (camera, TV, fancy diner for two) and sell tickets for a raffle. You give people the chance to win something, and are not merely asking them for their money. Same with the hamburguesadas, you buy everything to make like a hundred hamburguers (or any other food for that matter), so you sell them two weeks prior to making them. At least that’s how it is where I live.

    I don’t doubt that asking for money between families is ok and all, but only beggars/panhandlers will approach a stranger to ask (not beg) for money, or people that are two pesos short for the bus fare.

    I don’t know if I somewhere got lost of what was the original question, but that’s just how I see it.

  • Rotem

    It’s similar in Hebrew: the word for begging (le’hit’cha’nen), unlike asking (le’va’kesh), also encompasses a sense of dependence which is related to extreme poverty, dependence or despair.

    I think the shame related to begging in our society is due to the vulnerability of acknowledging weaknesses, and letting our faith be up to someone else’s mercy. You normally *have* to beg, you don’t choose to.

    And that’s the beauty of crowdsourcing: you *choose* to need. You choose dependence and challenge the shame in “begging”. While it cannot be compared to desperately begging for your meal or for your life, crowdsourcing turns despair and dependence into freedom. It’s rough and it’s beautiful. Just be careful not to reclaim the word from those who actually *have* to beg…

  • pia.aip

    Hey there,
    I’m too from Austria, from Upper-Austria, have been living in Salzburg and some other places..

    I agree with the most things I read here, I guess they all have their truthfulness.

    What comes up to my mind (which I would actually not just connect generally with Austria) is: how inquired, how asked is “asking” itself.

    I think that many people are not used to see “being asked” as a positive thing. Mostly it seems like a burden to be an “asked one”. It might also be, that we are used to use cultural codes, like the waltz of asking. is it a more politer way to ask like this for something? is it a covering, a “not being direct” thing?

    I remember 2 situations in the last years, where two different people (in two very strange but also kind of serious situations) asked me, if they could ask me something. I was nervous, tense and thrilled to know what the question is..

    Both were serious, direct and revealing. There was the moment, which showed me, what the two persons thought about me (what were trying to figure out about me) and with my first reaction (which in my eyes shows at least as much as the concrete answer) they got to knew more about me.

    I really enjoyed this very weird and intense moments, but they are rare, very rare. In my eyes people always had a thing for beating around the bush. It is exciting too, but maybe it builds something up, which retards the direct way, which makes it more frightening. In my experience there were many moments, where people avoided the “being asked”, to stay untouched and maybe also unseen.

  • Laura

    I don’t know what Japanese word most closely fits with “beg,” so I’m not sure about asking vs. begging. However, I have always found it interesting that 聞く (kiku) can mean either “to ask” or “to listen/hear.”

  • Andrei Miron

    Here’s how it is in Romania:

    to beg/beggar – a cerși/cerșetor
    to require, to need, to wish (for) – a solicita, a avea nevoie, a dori, a pofti
    to expect – a (se) aștepta
    to ask – a cere
    to demand – a cere
    to pray (for) – a (se) ruga
    relish – poftă

    Similarities: Pretty much he same take on asking/begging and beggars.
    In familiar settings the language is almost prescriptive, you are required to respond to what is asked of you, saying no usually leads to tension.
    You can focus on the different value of the object that you require. It’s rude to give or to ask too much, there is a culture of fair trade.
    As for the styles of asking: Conditional form of verbs imply a difference of power. Saying only that you need/require/wish something makes the asking implicitly and does not require a direct response – you can just acknowledge the need.
    Differences: We are a more religious people and that translates into the asking situation by using the equivalent of praying. Plus we have the same form for asking and demanding, so instead of using either asking or demanding we use praying or demanding.
    One other thing worth mentioning is the usage of the equivalent of relish. This focuses on the less conscious, less controllable aspect of needing something. It’s used a lot around basic body needs as eating and having sex, but not only in those areas. So instead of addressing the person, you address the need.

  • Rosario Lopez

    Ok. I have a couple that not many people will know I think. I am from Barcelona, and here we have two beautiful official languages, one is SPANISH, and the other one is CATALAN.

    So I’ll start by Spanish. In Spanish there is a very famous idiom that goes “No se pueden pedir peras al olmo”. This means, that you can’t ask the elm tree for pears, because its simply impossible. No matter how much the elm “tries”, it just cant give you pears. So in general it means that to avoid useless frustration from both sides, it’s better not to ask for impossible things. Its all about setting the right expectations.

    In Catalan we have a similar idiom which is “demanar la lluna en un cove”, this means “asking for the moon in a basket”, so asking for something impossible. if somebody asks you for something unattainable, you can say “em demanes la lluna en un cove!”

  • Arieke van Andel

    In Dutch to ask = vragen. The related noun = vraag: question.
    ‘Vragen’ can be used for: posing a question (een vraag stellen), inviting someone (asking then to come to a party), asking for information, but also for asking for help. (hulp vragen). It can also be more firm: a polite form of demanding (Ik vraag u te vertrekken – I’m asking you to leave) The firm way would be ‘eisen’ – demanding. (Ik eis dat u gaat – I demand you to leave).

    To beg can be translated in two ways: ‘smeken’ and ‘bedelen’.
    ‘Smeken’ is like pleading: an urgent but humble way of asking (begging for mercy, help)
    ‘Bedelen’ is ‘holding up your hand for money’ (also used in a less severe way for dogs or kids ‘begging’ for a treat)

    I think ‘smeken’ is more accepted than ‘bedelen’. Perhaps because ‘smeken’ establishes a relationshop of power: one acknowledges he’s in trouble and dependant on the other: you beg on your knees. While ‘bedelen’ can be seen as expecting others to provide for you, not making an effort. (I’m not saying that’s what I think but I’m trying to explain the different connotations).

    Regarding culture, a phrase that came to mind was the saying ‘kinderen die vragen worden overgeslagen’: ‘children who ask will be skipped’ – as in you are supposed to wait for yourturn, when the adults get to you instead of ask (for attention, a cookie etc). I don’t think our culture is still completely like that but I do think asking is still a sensitive topic. Asking for information, knowledge is fine. Asking for help is sensitive. You’ve done well if you don’t need to ask for anything. We have a term ‘vraagverlegenheid’ which means ‘being shy to ask’. There’s a term ‘overvragen’ ‘overasking’ asking more than someone is able or willing to offer.

    Regarding crowdfunding, a good way to put it here is to present is as an opportunity to take part in something, help a great idea along, rather than as asking for something. The first is good entrepreneurship. The second is not being able to provide for yourself. Another way would be to present it as a way to beat the system (we don’t need institutions to decide where our money goes, we’ll decide for ourselves), which links to the anti-authoritarian part of our culture.

    I also notice a difference between countries with a state-organized system of
    welfare/social security where to put it bluntly the thought is ‘we pay taxes so
    we collectively provide for eachother’s needs’ where donating is more or less an extra. And countries where people have to rely on eachother much more to survive, where asking and helping is just part of how you help eachother along. It seems crowdfunding fits in better there.

    Of course there’s more nuance to it all but then this post would become even longer.

  • Anne K. Rasch

    I did not read all the comments, so please excuse if I repeat a notion … I agree with Benni Yang that in German (and Austrian) “fragen” is very neutral and “bitten” is more intense – more urgent, if you want. “Betteln” on the other hand is negative. I think the difference is more or less this: if you ask (fragen), it really doesn’t matter too much whether the answer will be yes or no. The answerer is completely free to decide. If you plea (? my translation for bitten), the one answering knows that it will not be easy for the asker if he sais no. So not so free. If you beg (betteln), the one answering really gets the feeling that there is no alternative, that the one asking has no ideas left … or say yes or I will be screwed … Humans are obsessed with freedom. We hate if someone begs us for something, since we feel he is taking away our freedom to decide. But if someone asks and really, whole-heartetly can accept a yes as well as a no … few people will be upset!
    (I hope I got my point across … hugs from a German girl in Italy! ;))

  • Eargan

    Didn’t see Bulgarian so far so I’ll throw it in.

    If you ask from a position of power or at least from a position where you can reasonably expect the other person to comply, you can say ‘искам (iskam)’ – literally ‘I want’.

    ‘Ask’ (not as a question, but as in asking a favour) is ‘моля (molya)’ – which also happens to mean an equivalent of ‘you’re welcome’ (as an answer to thanks), or as something like ‘please do’ when someone asks you for something. Molya is the polite form of asking, basically.

    The same verb, strangely, becomes ‘to pray’ if you make it reflexive (not at all like the ‘ask myself’ it would literally translate to in English, the reflexive makes it sound like letting your plea out, or at least so it has always felt to me.)

    ‘Beg’ (as in ‘beggar’) is ‘прося (prosya)’, cognate of the generic word for ask in practically all other Slavic languages. In Bulgarian, though, it has a very distinct flavour of weakness and poverty. It is a word people use to describe an sort of plea, but no one actually uses it as a form of asking. It is not quite derogatory, but… humiliating in a way.

    ‘Beg’ as in implore, ask in a heartfelt/desperate way is ‘умолявам (umolyavam)’ (from same root as ‘моля’). It carries strong notes of need, desperation, and usually – of repetition, of asking again re:something you have already asked for and not been granted. This however applies mostly to begging someone to do something, while ‘prosya’ is mostly when begging for alms.

    This turned out a bit more complicated than I expected when I started writing tbh…

  • agata

    In Polish, we have a slightly different division of verbs and senses.
    “To beg” can be translated as “błagać” which is full of pity and puts the begging person in low position or “żebrać” which is mainly and primarily financial and means begging for money.
    “To ask” can be translated in 2 ways, “pytać” has the same meaning as “ask for directions”, it suggests lack of knowledge, curosity, but also no inferiority of the asking person, no deeper relation. I can also “pytać” to do me a favor, but this is more informative, less polite.
    The second verb, “prosić”, means more or less “to ask kindly for a favor”. I guess this exact one will be used in translation of your book ;). It has the same roots and ethimology as the Polish word “please” and “here you are” (we use “proszę” in both cases – to ask someone to do sth, and to reply for “thank you”! which is interesting and not so common in other languages).

  • duene sahara

    hullo, maybe you are also interested in the etymological roots of asking (fragen) and begging (bitten). many languages have shared roots f.e. middle and old englisch or german forms. so i’ve made photos from a etymological language textbook (dtv etymologisches wörterbuch des deutschen). maybe you have someone who can translate it proper for you.
    in short: “bitten”=”polite request”, the roots are not sure and vary from “wanting” to “desire”, “demand” “thirst” and there is also the word “verbitten”= “not to tolerate sth. (with emphasis)” and “abbitte (leisten)”=”to apologize”.
    “fragen”=”requesting an answer” with roots in “unsure” “doubtful, questionable”

    • duene sahara

      maybe for the definitons in “daily life” the art of bearing (carriage, posture) and the pitch of voice of the asking or begging person determines whether it is the one or other, not so much the strukture of the sentence. the same question can mean something different depending on the performance.

  • anna hunter

    To ask for, to beg – Kiswahili

    I studied African linguistics and learned a few things about Kiswahili, maybe this will help you.

    In Kiswahili there are a few verbs that refer to “ask”

    1. -omba = beg, ask for, petition, pray for

    2. -uliza = ask, question something, inquire

    If you want to ask a question or inquire something/someone, you use –uliza.
    But if you if you want to ask for advice or help, you use –omba (there is an applicative form: –ombea means pray for or ask for, it is derivated from omba).

    -omba means to pray as well.
    ombi means prayer or request
    ombaomba is a beggar
    Mwombaji is the supplicant or applicant

    So in Kiswahili –omba or ombea is the closest to the translation of “asking for sth” and it’s very close to praying and begging.

  • Mona Torgersen

    Hmm, I never thought about this before, but the word “ask” in Norwegian is either “spør”, which means nothing special. Or, or it can also be “be”. Which is also the same word we use to say “pray”.

  • Y Kassab

    I had a read through the other answers and thought I would add a little about the Arab culture. Assisting people is a way of life. People just help each other out. Often it’s unspoken and it’s just part of social life. Someone gives birth, you’re there. If someone gets married, you’re there. If someone encounters hardship, people are there. It’s expected and there’s a very deep sense of connections. The idea is that everyone watches out for the other people around them.

    As for the distinction between asking and begging, there is a massive difference. Asking is often done casually. Begging is frowned upon (the only main instance I can think of is if someone begs in the street). The unstated expectation is that if someone needs something desperately, the family ought to step in.

  • Lola

    I’m from Portugal and the situation here is dire: I see beggars on the street holding out their hands asking for help (they are mostly ignored, like they’re invisible… breaks my heart – por favor, ajude! Uma esmola. – translation: please help. Be charitable). This is happening all over the country while politicians grow richer by impoverishing the people. I used to be a teacher; I was a teacher for 6 years because the major I chose in university isn’t the “right” one to get a “proper” job. Now I’m unemployed. I was kicked out of the school I was working for because someone “asked” for a job, and even though they are not qualified they got my job (they simply did not renew my contract, said I was fat – I did not get the memo saying teachers had to look like models – and gave my job to someone else – someone with “high” connections). In this case we even have an English saying, which is “jobs for the boys”. So now I am trying to finish my masters while I work part-time for my sister’s boss – my sister “asked” him if he could help (“Achas que podes dar uma ajudinha à minha irmã?” – translation – “Do you think you can help out my sister?”). When I am in desperate need of money (and this is my last resort) I ask my parents for help. I explain the situation and ask for a “loan” but basically they give me whatever I need, if it’s in their power to do so (Pai e mãe, preciso de ajuda… de um empréstimo. – translation – “Dad and mom, I need help… a loan.”)
    My dad is a chairman of the town’s board so many times a lot of people go to his house (when they should go to the office during office hours) to make demands (most of them ridiculous and outrageous) which would mostly be “Eu quero, eu exijo, tem de ser feito” – translation – “I want, I demand, it must be done”.
    Both examples are very different both in language and attitude; the thing that distinguishes them is actual need and humility from arrogance. From my point of view, everything here is all about politics, government and having the right connections.

  • Amane Matsuo


    I’m French, I’m not sure I can help a lot but I’ll try anyways.

    To ask is usually translating as «demander» in french, but «demander» can have several different meaning. When you use it in a question, it’s usually a «neutral» way of speaking, you don’t beg but you don’t order either. You just want an information (example «Je peux te demander quelque chose ?» – Can I ask you something?). But «demander» can also be a harsh yet polite way to order someone to stop something. For example if a politician want his opponent to stop talking he’ll say «Je vous demande de vous arrêter» (I want you to stop).

    If you want an information you really need but you want to stay polite and don’t want the other person to realize how urgent it is, you’ll use «prier» (you can tranlate it with «to beg» but it’s more calm) : «Je te prie de me dire où est ma fille» («I beg you to tell me where my daughter is»). Then if you really want something and you really want the other person to understand how urgent it is, you’ll use «supplier». «Je te supplie de me dire où est ma fille», which could be translate «I supplicate you to tell me where my daughter is».

  • Starry Owl

    I lived in Indonesia for two years when I was younger and studied the language all through high school and they have some interesting ways to ask I think. More specifically, how they use the word please. There are technically words for please, like ‘tolong’ or ‘silakan.’ But although tolong sometimes works in a sentence like ‘can you please give me this?’ it doesn’t necessarily get used all that often. It also means help, so it could be put in sentences with prefixes/suffixes and used to mean something like ‘can you help me?’ Or something like that. Sorry about how vague this is, I haven’t studied the language in a while so I’m a bit rusty. ‘Silakan’ is usually used to say something like ‘please do this.’ So, ‘please eat’ or ‘please sit down.’ It’s framed as an invitation as well as a demand. Then you could also use something like ‘boleh’ with is more along the lines of ‘may I.’ ‘May I please have this?’ ‘May I please ask this?’ But technically,if it is polite, it’s like you are saying please. At the same time, there are a whole heap of less polite ways to say please which I don’t know much about, as they are more region specific I think. The last thing I can think of is ‘permisi’ which means in this case ‘please excuse me.’ This one can be used for a range of things, from ‘please get out of my way I am walking here’ to ‘excuse me, would you please tell me …?’ Anyway, I hope that was interesting, I think it’s funny how it can really depend on how you ask for something whether or not you will get it. If you ask too formally, you’ll get laughed at. If you ask too colloquially, you’ll probably be snubbed or get evil glares. It all hangs on HOW you ask.

  • Zoe Olivotto

    Hm. Brazilian food for thought, here. In Portuguese, we have two translations for “asking”, which can be “perguntar” (meaning asking a question) and “pedir”(meaning asking for something). so “can I ask you something” which in English can either be ask a question or a favor, in portuguese the verb would depend on the person’s intention. So there’s “perguntar” which implies curiosity or doubt and “pedir” which puts you in a more vulnerable position since it implies you need something from the other person.

    Also, a homeless person asks for money here, we don’t say beg. “Implorar”, portuguese for “to beg”, means to throw yourself on the floor and cry, I mean, to have no other resources. Also for some reason “implorar” reminds me of religion, like that’s something you would have to do to have god’s forgiveness.

  • Joonas Tepp

    I’m Estonian and when I first pondered about the topic I honestly thought we only have one word for begging. There are of course more, like 4, but all of them basically mean the same thing. The most common one (and I haven’t heard anyone use it for years) is “anuma”, which is down on your knees and begging for the life of your child or something to that extent. Anything less is “paluma” and other variations on the word. Homeless people who are holding out their cups or hats for change are asking (paluma) for money. A mother asks her son to stop smoking, it’s only when the boy is in the hospital with lung cancer when she will beg.
    I think because of the sorted history of Estonia (Slavery for hundreds of years under different countries and then the USSR) we’ve become very pragmatic nation. You need something, you ask. For instance (and this is a very non-scientific observation) someone comes to ask you for change at the bus station. Usually there’s a great big back story how their mother is sick, they need to get back to the homeland, they live hundreds of miles away or whatever. The longer the story, the more it resembles begging and (at least in my group of friends) that lessens the possibility of me giving you money. Now if you tell me “hey do you happen to have a few extra euros for X” then, depending on my mood and other things, I will give you the few euros. As long as you don’t waste my time with a bs story that will always end the same way.
    It’s weird now that I start to think about it. Begging usually takes more time and involves a lot of extra emotion from the begger. Emotion that a typical Estonian sets aside, because that’s your emotion, I don’t have time for your emotion, especially if you feel the need to make a show out of it. It’s not that we’re cold people or we don’t care, we just understand that like with small children throwing a tantrum, the attention is the first “victory” for the begger. When you let yourself get sucked in to their emotional state, whether it be fake or not, they’ve got the upper hand. Once we remove the extra emotionality, we get to the core of the issue, which is someone asking us for something, without the theatrics.

  • Jose

    In some regions of Portugal, some years ago, the verbs for ‘asking a question’ (perguntar) and ‘searching’ (procurar) were switched. That was a little confusing for me when I was a kid (my grandmother did it) but now, when I think about it, I understand that when you ask a question you’re actually searching for an answer :) … No confusion with ‘asking for something’ (pedir), it’s a different verb.

  • timberwolf

    German is my native language and at least when it comes to translating ‘begging’ I’d say there are several possibilities. The first would be ‘betteln’, a word which is almost exclusively reserved for people who are called beggars (Bettler) I’d say, by which I mean a person who asks for money without any kind of exchange. But I guess ‘begging’ has a bit more positive conotation in English, so I’d translate it as ‘bitten’ or ‘um etwas flehen’, but both are not ideal. ‘Ask’ is also quite tricky to translate I guess, because it can mean ‘bitten’ as well, but ‘ask for’ also implies that you expect that someone WILL give you what you’re asking for, so maybe ‘etwas verlangen’ could be on the other side of the spectrum. The middle way might be ‘etwas wünschen’ (‘to wish’), which has a positive conotation and doesn’t imply that you absolutely expect to get what you’re asking for.

  • Paul A

    Hi french speaking Translation student here.
    In Spanish – and it varies depending on which hispanophone country you’re considering – pedir means to ask for a service and preguntar for a question. In english, the context is what helps define the nature of what is asked but in various languages, you’ll have clear lexical differences expressed. Hope that helped.

  • Elena Blanco

    My mother tongue is Spanish, and we have a good idiom that came to my mind first time you asked (or begged?) for help in the other post. But for some reason I didn’t bring it up.
    “El que no llora, no mama”. The closest translation to English that I can think of is “If you don’t cry, you won’t be brestfed”. It may sound weird, but that’s the meaning. So, if you need help, but out of pride or any other reason, you don’t ask or beg for that help, you won’t definitely get it. Another interpretation might be that if you don’t “make noise”, you won’t get attention.

  • Kenzie Leigh

    In French to ask for something would be to “demande”
    For example “I asked” would translate to “J’ai demandé”
    But “une demande” is also translated back to English as “a request” or even “an application” as in a college or job application.

  • tripleM

    I’d like to jump in with my two cents on Portuguese.

    The verb ‘to ask’ in Portuguese can be translated to ‘perguntar’ and is only used when asking a question, never to ask for something, and comes from the Latin word ‘percontor’ which means ‘to inquire’.

    To ask for something is a completely different verb, ‘pedir’ which comes from the Latin ‘petere’ meaning ‘to seek, to beg, beseech’. However, using the verb ‘pedir’ in current spoken language, doesn’t always mean you’re begging. The only way to tell the difference I believe is mostly subjective, depending on the person and situation and also in the manner of the request. The noun ‘pedinte’ comes from the verb and means ‘someone who’s asking’ and is used to describe beggars. So if you say ‘He/She is a ‘pedinte” you’re saying that person is a beggar, being often used as a synonym for ‘mendigo’.

    The noun ‘mendigo’ is also used to describe a beggar but in this case there is also the underlying assumption that the person is homeless and has no material posessions. It can also be turned into the verb ‘mendigar’ which is translated to English as ‘to beg, to panhandle’. These words come from the Latin word ‘mendicus’, meaning ‘beggarly, needy, indigent’ which in itself comes from the Proto-Indo-European ‘mend’ which means ‘physical defect, fault’. I wonder if the Latin word started out being used to describe those that couldn’t work because of physical defects and had to beg for money on the streets, or if it meant that by being a beggar a person was faulty or defective. Let’s hope for the former.
    Nowadays the word ‘mendigo’ has a stigma of being seen as an insult, so the politically correct word is ‘sem-abrigo’ which literally means ‘without shelter’.

    Sidenote: The Order of Friars Minor, from the Franciscan religious order, is also known as the ‘ordem mendicante’ (mendicant order) because they vowed for poverty and their survival was dependent on donations. Pope Francis comes from the Franciscan order and this is why he relinquished all the gold and as many physical possessions as he could.

    Lastly the final word I must address is the verb ‘implorar’ which means ‘to implore’. While English also has this verb, both ‘to implore’ and ‘to beg’ are translated to the verb ‘implorar’. It is much more specific than ‘pedir’, since it doesn’t have a subjective definition or any underlying assumptions. It’s definition can be seen by its Latin root word ‘imploro’, which can be divided into ‘in’+’ploro’ with the latter meaning ‘to cry out’.

    I would expect that the other Latin languages have the same root words and are quite similar in meaning.

    • tripleM

      Wow that turned out quite longer than what I expected. Sorry Amanda, but I hope it helps :)

    • tripleM

      I don’t want to keep replying to myself, but I’ve seen some people mention the verb ‘suplicar’ (supplicate in English, didn’t even know that existed) and couldn’t let it pass, because its etymology is excellent. It comes from the Latin word ‘supplico’ that is a combination of ‘sub’ (‘under’ or ‘at the feet of’) + ‘plico’ (‘fold’ or ‘bend’).
      The dictionary definition of ‘suplicar’ is: ‘pedir’ with humbleness or persistence = ‘implorar’

      So the dictionary gives a new definition to the verb ‘implorar’ saying it is synonymous with asking humbly or asking persistently. But the Latin definitions of the roots of both verbs are quite different, with ‘suplicar’ basically underlying that you are at the feet of someone, and ‘implorar’ that you are crying out, not specifying if it’s for a particular person or just the public in general. Does this mean an underlying weakness when using ‘suplicar’ and not when using ‘implorar’? I don’t think so, and I believe they are used interchangeably in common speak, regardless of their roots.

  • Annie Leonard

    I’m an American living in China after having done a degree in Chinese Studies (which I did in the UK). I’ve been studying Chinese for 9 years. Here’s my two cents with regards to Chinese language and culture.

    In Chinese when you want someone’s attention to ask them a question you say 请问 qíng wèn, which literally translates to “Please (may I) ask.” In English we would say “Excuse me.” Chinese is a much more say-what-you-mean sort of language and Chinese people with English as a second language can come off as very direct to the point of rudeness to native English speakers. The word 问 wèn itself is a pictogram of a mouth 口 kóu inside a door 门 mén, as if you are standing at your neighbour’s door asking to borrow a cup of sugar. (the classic American stereotype!)

    In China people love to ask very personal questions, like your age and salary, how many people in your family. This is out of curiosity and friendliness: they show that they are interested in you by finding out things about you. In the US and especially the UK, all these personal questions would seem prying and impolite.

    If you’re interested in more Chinese-related stuff, let me know!

    • Kelsey

      I’ve also been studying Chinese, though not quite as long as 9 years, and I agree with you completely. And really, Chinese is such a complicated language- beautifully complicated. There are so many ways to ask something and to make it sound like a more stern question or a loving question or a flippant question, all depending on how you phrase it and which words you use. Context is everything.

      Off the top of my head, I believe there are at least two different ways you can say “to beg” in Chinese (though I’m sure there are more that I just don’t know), with different connotations. For example, 乞求 qǐqiú can mean “to beg for something” such as mercy or forgiveness. 討 tao can mean to beg for money or food but at the same time, if used in a different circumstance or with another character, could easily mean “to discuss” or “to dislike” or “to demand”. This character is especially interesting because it you break it down, the left half of the character 言 yán means “to speak” or “speech” and the right half of the character 寸 cun means “very small” or “tiny”….

      It’s all very intricate and fascinating, at least to me and I’m glad to come across someone who also seems really interested in it! =]

      • Annie Leonard

        Hi Kelsey, nice to meet you, too! Are you studying Chinese in Taiwan? It’s great that you’re studying traditional characters, wherever you are; I’m jealous! It is an amazing language, even if the mainland is a difficult place to live sometimes. There are so many intricate layers and fascinating plays on words! I wish you all the best in your future studies~~

        • Kelsey

          I wish I was studying in Taiwan! Right now I’m studying in the USA but have been to mainland China several times. I have a friend who will be moving back to Taiwan in June so maybe I’ll maybe make it there soon. I’m studying traditional characters for no reason other than I think it’s important to know them but I can read and write the simplified versions of most of the characters I know, more out of necessity than anything since everything’s in simplified in mainland China.

          Mind if I ask where you’re living in China? I’m always curious, I’ve met so many people from so many parts of China- Urumqi, Harbin, Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming… it’s always fun to hear where someone’s hanging out. I was recently staying in Shanghai for a month so while you may be a little jealous of me studying traditional characters, I’m jealous of you living there, even though I completely agree that it isn’t always the easiest place to live.

          • Annie Leonard

            I’m living in Chengdu right now. I spent two years in Shanghai, and while it was amazing, the fast pace of life and the way people were always out for your money got me down. Chengdu is so much better: the people are friendly, it’s more Chinese while still having a healthy collection of expat bars and restaurants, and there are trees everywhere! I like it a lot and hope to stay for a while.

            I learned some traditional characters while I was living in Hong Kong, but not really enough to know what I’m looking at when I encounter an unfamiliar character, or one that doesn’t follow the rules. Oddly, the further inland you get in mainland China, the more traditional characters you see on shop signs and advertisements. I see them quite often in Chengdu! I think that people still want to preserve it, despite how simplified characters make it so much easier for everyone to learn to read and write.

    • Félix Marqués

      The mouth-in-door image is beautiful.

  • Uldis Zariņš

    Wow, this is just amazing, I guess the book would evolve into a proper scientific work if all these extremely thoughtful comments are included! :)

    It is also amazing to see that while semantics differ quite a bit in different languages, most of the langugages tend to have some words describing asking from the point of strength and some other words – from a point of weekness, as someone noted in his comment.

    It is true also for Latvian language. Begging has its own word – “ubagot” with a very narrow meaning – begging for a money on the street; in some contexts (as in begging forgiviness of permission) it can also be translated as “lūgt”. However in most cases “lūgt” is translated as “to ask”. The main feature of this word regardless of the translation however is that it is always used from a position of weakness, and its etymology clearly shows why – its historical use comes from religious practice, as praying to God is translated as “lūgt dievu”, and I suppose this is never done from the position of strength. Not entirely surprisingly (see the comment on Estonian language – we share pretty much the same history) “lūgt” is the most frequently used form to describe acts of asking – for advice, for help, for directions. A close relative to this word is the word “vaicāt” and its sibling “jautāt”, both are mainly used for asking for information.

    However “prasīt” – which also can be translated as “to ask” – is an entirely different animal and, as in some other example, this is exclusively used with the meaning “to require”, e.g., from the position of strength – to ask for something to be done, for example. Funilly enough, begging it is commonly referred to as “asking for the money” – “prasīt naudu”. Which totally ruins my hypothesis that begging is always performed from the position of weakness, apparently Latvians tend to think that begging requires a lot of (mental) strength (which I might aggree to; however hypothesis that “lūgt” means asking from the position of weakness still holds strongly anyway). So there we go again – the actual words used doesn’t really mean as much as the context in which they are used.

  • tom

    I’m not sure if any of this is helpful. I read some of the comment below, and they’re all very interesting, but it all comes down to begging being a more desperate form of begging, with very, very blurred lines in between.
    After all, asking and begging are down-to-the-base principles in all societies…

  • Bukolisch

    Hi there,

    I’m a spanish artist so this is just my opinion of the matter.

    In spanish we’ve got several ways to say both “ask/beg”
    Preguntar: this basically means to ask a question.

    – Pedir: this means to ask for something. Help, alms, anything… For me, it doesn’t have any negative connotation.

    Mendigar: this is probably the closest to “beg”. This is what beggers
    (mendigo) do, but we normaly say “pedir limosna”, like “ask for alms”
    but the verb “mendigar” does have a negative connotation or at least it
    feels like that to me. It is what people do when they are desperate for
    some help. It is used sometimes to bitch about someone who’s asking for
    help ( I think it’s also seen as something that weak people do)

    Suplicar: its meaning is rather close to “beg” but if I say “suplicar” I
    do picture someone on his/her knees begging for his/her life in front
    of someone covered in blood and holding an ax or something like that.

    It is also used sometimes as a religious thing. We say: “Dios, escucha mi súplica”… like “Listen to my plea” or something like that. But this does mean you are completely desperate and in tears and screaming and all that shit.

    – Rogar: basically, it is the same as “suplicar” but less desperate.

    For me, “rogar” and “suplicar” are a bit
    literary and even biblical. Like I’d never used any of both words in any
    conversation. I’d sound way too old fashioned and victorian.

    So this is just my opinion!!!

  • Nils

    the classic Nietzsche phrase on this would be “Bitte nie! Laß dies Gewimmer! Nimm, ich bitte dich, nimm immer!” Which roughly translates “never ask/plead/beg. Do not whimper. Take, I beg you, always take”. But that’s probably quite Nietzsche specific.. I also like some German idioms (not commonly used) “Wer mit Geschenken kommt, hat sicher eine Bitte.” (the one who gives you presents, will surely ask something of you) or “Freundlich abschlagen ist besser als unwillig geben.” (to reject friendly is better than giving hesitatingly).

    • SherylDiedAndLeftYouNothing

      wow, wouldn’t the hardcore post modernists be creaming their pants after reading this little tidy.

  • Flavia

    in dutch there are two translations for begging- smeken and bedelen.
    smeken is more like pleading. “please please please, i need you, help me or i’ll die”
    has a negative tone. it is what a dog does when it pretends to be very
    hungry, innocent and especially fluffy. asking for something material.

    when i was little i (like many others) had a bedelarmband, which directly
    translates to ‘begging bracelet’ but is the same as a charm bracelet. a
    little chain with amulets attached.
    i never understood why it was called that, but wikipedia tells me:
    {whoever wishes to look at or touch the bracelet to see which amulets (bedeltjes) it holds, has to ‘pay’ with a new amulet.
    this paying for peeking is called bedelen, begging.
    each amulet carries a memory of the person it was given by.}
    so you carry around amulets representing your friends.

    the dutch vragen directly translates to to ask.
    a request is verzoek, zoek=search and verzoek is closely related to the german versuch which means try. so they’re all quite similar, quest/zoek/such.

    in the south of the netherlands a gift is a ‘present / presentje’, pronounced presEnt.
    i wonder how the english prEsent (gift) relates to the english to presEnt, perhaps a present is originally a more selfish form of gift, rather to display your wealth or generosity than for the sake of giving. but i have no idea.

    gift is also used in dutch (chhhift), mostly when talking about a donation of a large sum of money, or a collection of paintings donated to a museum or something.

    schenken is both a slightly old fashioned dutch word and a commonly used german word for giving/donating, in dutch mainly used for giving money to your children so they won’t have to pay taxes over it when you die. it also translates to to pour.

    • Flavia

      please in dutch is alsjeblieft or alstublieft (more polite)
      which literally means ‘if you please’

    • Theijz

      I’d like to add to this and the other excellent explanations of the dutch “Bedelen” and “Smeken”:
      ‘Smeken’ (pronounced like english “smaken”) is purely the vocal act of begging, and is a submissive and desperate way of asking, like begging for mercy.
      ‘Bedelen’ is related to the actions of a beggar (‘bedelaar’), usually the more passive way.

      If done in a more shameless way, it is called “schooien”, and someone doing that is called a “schooier”(scumbag)

  • Félix Marqués

    In Spanish (at least Spanish from Spain), “pedir” means everything. You can “pedir” a favour from someone, you can “pedir” money on the street… It just means “asking” (for something, though, not asking questions—there’s a different word for that). “Pedir” can have all the connotations of both the English “asking” and “begging”, that’s very context-relative.
    There are other words for begging when you’re desperate, such as “suplicar” or “rogar”, but they specifically exist to indicate desperation (you can “suplicar” God for something, for instance) and are not related to panhandling and such.

    So a piece of news on crowdfunding would just use “pedir” and then people could attach any connotations to it.

    Extra data: the word “crowdfunding”, by the way, is usually not translated from English, but the one translation that I’ve seen being used every now and then over here (by leading Spanish crowdfunding service Lánzanos [“Launch Us”], for instance) is “financiación en masa” (“mass financing”).

  • Madd Hatter

    The Arab language and culture has an…interesting take on this. Linguistically, religiously, and on the surface, they support beggars. In fact, the main word for begging, استعطى, is the reflexive of the word “to give,” seeing it as two sides of the same coin. Another word is a derivative of the word “to touch,” so linguistically it isn’t seen as that bad. Religiously, one of the five pillars of Islam (not all Arabs are Muslim, but most are) is to give alms to the poor, and beggars get lots of money and food around religious holidays. If you ask an Arab, many will point to the religious side of things. However, as much of the Middle East has definite class divisions along ethnic and religious lines, the beggars are often looked at by those outside their own group as lesser, a drag on society, and that the family should step in and help them (as Y Kassab points out below).

  • manukowski

    I saw another comment in Russian, have to add.
    In Russian we have these words:
    to ask – “спрашивать” (ask about something) – I can’t exactly tell where does the word originate from, it just means that you want to know some more information, not sure whether some person has / will give you something you want; however if you use the word “попросить” (ask to do something) it has that meaning that you want someone to do something for you, but if they say no, you will not be very much sad.
    to beg – “умолять” sounds to me like there is some religious sense in it too, since to pray is “молиться” (you see the same word root) so when you pronounce this word, it still rings some religious bell in your head. However, there is also another word – “выпрашивать” which has this strong meaning when you are begging very much for something and get a totally no answer, but you don’t give up and it becomes annoying.
    I hope that also helps!

    • Vera

      Hey there, fellow Russian AFPer;) I saw couple of other Russian opinions here, will join yours. What I loved is that you mentioned the difference between просить and выпрашивать. I just wanted to add that выпрашивать is often implied to kids who can just ask you for one thing one thousand time – it is like I will win and have what I asked for anyway, even if I will have to repeat it too many times.

  • Heather Bennett

    In japanese, there are different verbs for give/receive depending on the other person. You give ‘up’ to an elder or even a friend, and you give ‘down’ to children etc. It’s the same for receiving. And when you give ‘up’, you usually say “it’s a boring thing”, and etiquette usually leads that they don’t open it in front of you

  • Eveline


    I’m a 25 year old women form the netherlands.
    I love our word ‘gezellig’. It’s a Dutch word, something like cosy but different.
    I just love it!!


  • Agata Mantaj

    Hi Amanda,

    I don’t know if you find my view useful, but it touches the subject a bit.
    I’m originally Polish, and I live in UK for some years now.
    My baby daughter just started nursery, as I went back to work AND….
    Babys say “give me”- as they do, but my daughter says that in Polish – “daj”.
    Unfortunately “daj”(polish) phoneticly sounds like “DIE” in english….
    So my sweet little girl at the nursery was pointing things and people saying “DIE, DIE, DIE!”.
    I thought I should explain that at the nursery that my baby is not wishing for anyone’s dead, only saying “give me”…

  • Kathi Wenz

    I’m german, and the language is different from austrian german, especially in subtle points like this. So begging in german could be “bitten” as somebody earlier wrote, but it’s more like “nicely asking”, like saying “please?”
    You could also say “beknien” which is rather colloqial and litterally means “gettin down on your knees”. So that’s kind of the other end of the spectrum of dignity vs desperation. “betteln” is litarelly “begging” (The noun “Bettler” means beggar) and I think it derives from “beten” which means praying. So that says a lot about the relationship between the asking one and the one being asked right?

    So what’s inbetween? I can’t think of any word right now, that’s more than asking but hasn’t figuratively getting you down on your knees just yet. Seems like we germans only go for the extremes. ;)

  • Ari

    Russian speaker here. To ask is просить/prosit’ and to beg is молить/molit’ (funnily enough as it is in Swedish it also mean to pray). Now you hear просить all the time- Russian people really don’t like going the fancy round-about way with their words, they really are quite blunt. It doesn’t matter if you’re asking some one formally (вы- like the French vous, however that term is dying, the вы to ты transmition can take place in just a few exchanged phrases) or informally, просить is always the same. The only frills they add to the sentence could be something like ‘I wanted to ask you ___’ (я хотел/а тебя/вас спросить) or without using the verb to ask you can ask someone to do something by asking them ‘Could you _____’ (Не мог/ла/ли бы вы/ты), and all the nouns are of course gendered. Meanwhile молить is very rare, or very rarely said seriously that is- ну я же молю тебя! that you may hear, it means ‘but I’m begging you!'(implies- look how I’m humiliating myself, I came this low you must, must do as I ask) que for dramatic hand gestures and a theatrical drop to the knees, but someone begging…at least outwardly begging with the actual verb to beg… never came across it. Seems as if the only person Russians are willing to beg from is God (hence the religious undertones of the very word).

  • Timothy Schuster

    taking up the above point that the Swedish “att be” means both “to ask” or “to pray”, I would point out that historically “to pray” in English also could be used “to ask”, e.g. “Pray, tell”, “I pray, you leave my house”. This makes sense, because the act of praying, is just “asking” a divine power for something, and therefore the two senses can be easily combined into one word over time. Interestingly “pray” comes from the PIE root word *prek- word which the root of many european languages’ word for “asking, including the German “fragen”.

  • Ericka D

    So I’m Irish and only posses a shamefully basic level of Irish but I think there’s an interesting distinction to be found – although I’m sorry, this involves different kinds of verbs.

    So there’s two main verbs for ‘begging’ that I know of in Irish, ‘Impigh ar’ and ‘Iarr’. The first distinction, is that ‘Impigh ar’ really means to supplicate, or entreat. It’s definitely associated with Ireland’s strongly Catholic past. If it’s associated with religion – it’s not begging right? ‘Impigh ar’ kind of implies that, usually it’s definition mentions God in some way. I should point out ‘Impigh ar’ is a transitive verb, a verb that much have an object. So really, it’s begging God but it needs a distinction to befit the object of the verb, so it’s “supplication”. I think eventually that eased towards a loose meaning of asking with great need etc.
    ‘Iarr’ is more directly associated with asking for money specifically. It is an intransitive verb, it doesn’t need an object. ‘Iarr’ would be the closest Irish word to ‘begging’, and I think it shows a certain outlook towards begging vs asking, at least in an Irish context. ‘Iarr’ is essentially asking without object, it is asking for something not asking someone like ‘Impigh ar’. ‘Iarr’ implies desperation, you’re asking “anyone” as it were, for something because the verb itself doesn’t require an object. It’s just throwing it out there and hoping someone answers. Whereas ‘Impigh ar’ in itself, implies specific need, a focused requirement with some greater plan behind it – which hits on the Plan A, Plan B thing.

    Now, I’m no strict Irish linguist so apologies to any fellow Irish-speakers reading this and cringing.

  • Kati

    I’m Hungarian, and I’d like to join this fun discussion.
    In hungarian “to ask” is “kérni”. We have different words for asking a question (kérdez) and asking for something (kér). “Kérni” is the most commonly used, although we can express a request (kérés) in many other ways. In Hungary a beggar are called “kéregető” (it’s the nicest word for it, others are more pejorative).
    We have another word, which expresses more desperation. To beg in hungarian is “könyörögni”. It’s meaning is closer to “please have mercy”. Or it is used as to pray (but also communicates desperation). “Könyörögni” is not used like “kérni”. You can say: “Szeretnék kérni tőled valamit” (= I’d like to ask you something), but in hunagrian you say: “Könyörgök, ne csináld” (=I beg you, don’t do this). This verb is more like an emphasis. And often used as “Nem fogok neki könyörögni” (=I won’t be begging him/her), meaning, I have asked enough times, I won’t ask more, I won’t let go of my pride.
    I don’t know if it’s a family thing, or generation thing, or wheter it’s true for Hungarians in general, but my parents (in their 60’s) really don’t like asking, they won’t speak their mind if something bothers them, or they need something. I think it’s mostly because of pride, and they were bought up as it’s not polite to ask for something. The youth is different. (But it’s my oppinion.)

  • Peter Herrmann

    Greetings to Aussie from Bavaria (or Barbaria, as some Kiwi friends called it)

    There may be some redundancy here, but here are some thoughts: I recognize some of the “Viennese Waltz” of bending over backwards to not explicitly “ask”, or asking in such a way that the asked person needs to know a few rules to understand what the “real” question is. Like asking “Do you happen to know someone who can help me with this?” or stating “I have this and that problem…” while both know perfectly well that the real question is “can YOU help me with this?”

    On the other hand, there is a rather direct, robust asking-culture going on, by which I do not mean questions are phrased as military orders. If a boss asks Would you like to do …?” it is clear that the question is NOT whether I like to (I ran into some trouble at school when I answered such a question truthfully).

    And then of course there are all the shades of grey in between.

    Maybe it is a somewhat playful formulation of requests that keeps the backdoor open to say “no” (your question a couple of days ago springs into mind).

  • Jan de la Rosa

    Hi, Amanda.
    There’s an interesting word for beggar in Spanish: pordiosero. The Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy implies is a synonym to beggar but it’s actually a contraction of 3 words that mean something else by themselves:
    “Por”= a preposition (for)
    “Dios”= God
    “-ero”= suffix that indicates work relation to own’s profession.
    It’s a word that does not have antonyms. It’s also highly derogatory and contemporary used as an insult.

    The origin of this word comes from the beggars explicitly begging, asking and invoking God, with formulas such as “please, in the name of God, give me”. The beggar left his face on God’s hand, to which the suffix -ero , names own profession (just as in -er/or: baker, shoemaker, contractor) was added to state that these beggars were almost ‘professional’ as indeed happened in Spain between XVI-XVII. Examples of this can be found in classic Spanish literature, in works such as El Lazarillo de Tormes (1554) and El Buscón (1605).

    Among those labeled pordioseros we could also put professional church people, who are always inflicting God into things and conversations to get what they want and so take advantage of people.

    There is also a herb known as “hierba de los lazarosos or hierba de los pordioseros”. It’s real name is Clematis and is a medicinal plant of the family Ranunculaceae, reddish stems, gnarled and climbing , and composed of opposite and toothed leaflets cordate leaves, and white flowers, blue or violet and low odor. ( Definition from The Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy ).

    Hope this helps a little ;)

  • Unica Peters

    As a fellow German, I’d like to elaborate on colloquial phrases for asking for money such as anhauen”
    or “anpumpen”.

    “Anhauen” literally means “to hit/push someone slightly”. This implies two things:
    1) you’re doing it secretly/ stealthily –> this somehow involves shame, something not quite official. I also know someone who uses “anhauen” when planning to address people about a potential and informal business deal.
    2) the image of prodding someone with your elbow, or even pushing them hard, which gives me the idea that you are somehow hoping/expecting that money/food/a deal or whatever it it you want will just fall out of that person’s mouth/head, will emerge abruptly from within them, will be pushed out of them.

    “Anpumpen” literally means “to pump (at) someone”. Like you are placing a pump on them in order to extract money from within them. Pretty much like with water, they are a well of money.

    In both cases, the prefix “an-” in this context means “to affect/afflict someone with an action”, to place something on them, sometimes to bother them or at least to be the active part. It is not an equal situation between two persons, or an exchange, it’s more like A is pushing B to do something, A is doing something so B will react in the desired way (e.g. by giving something). It is usually a manipulative act.

    This is also mirrored in adjectives like “angeekelt” (disgusted, I have been affected by something disgusting) and “angenervt” (colloquial for annoyed, I have been affected by something/someone annoying).

    And, most importantly, we have “anbetteln” = to beg, adressing someone in particular.
    Er bettelt jeden Samstag in der Stadt = He begs (for money) in the city centre every Saturday.


    Er bettelt mich jedes Wochenende an = he begs me to do something every weekend (give him alcohol, lie to the police, whatever).

    So “Anbetteln” means to implore, but in an annoying way.

    We also have “schnorren” for “to bum/ to scrounge” but I have no idea where that comes from.

  • poravee woraoayporn

    I hope what I have to say is relevant and that I will be making myself clear in the end. But I find this is a really messy topic. Language in general is also up to the interpretation of the one talked to, who listens and hears what was said or asked. But of course communication is not something an individual needs to be alone in his head…. My point is that we communicate with others and the meaning of what we say is open to debate. That there were so many responses to the “asking vs. begging” somewhat proves that. The opinions on what one word means to one person are manifold and versatile. And of course society plays a vital role in that..there are already so many misunderstandings in the language of the society/culture we do “understand”.

    So, reading a lot of posts in which people agree on the “dancing and waltzing” in Vienna, I would like to add a few things as I also grew up in Vienna, and disagree with the “waltzing” being a Viennese phenomenon. As I understand it “waltzing” paraphrases protocol or etiquette. And that is not something that is characteristic only for Vienna, is it?

    Let’s take the simple phrase “How are you?” which should actually be a question, suggesting someone asking another out of interest in the latter’s well-being. I know maybe 10 people who would ask me because they really care and want to know. Most of the people ask because it is considered to be polite, this is what people do. It’s a habit one learns.

    Or let’s take another example. Asking someone to close the window. (Which is a request, I think).
    You might say/ask:
    “Would you please close the window?”
    “Could/Can you please close the window?” (There the answer would probably not be, “yes I COULD/can (but won’t); because the counterpart would’ve known that you meant for them to close it, and also because it would be considered very rude.
    “It’s drafty in here, isn’t it?”
    “Please close the window.”
    “Is the window open?” (Actually an Irish Professor once gave this example in a lecture about iconicity and indexicality and language…. He said that he didn’t know about how it is in Vienna but if the answer to that question were “Yes.” in the US or in Ireland it would be damaging for the relationship with the asker.)
    And there are so many more possibilities to ask someone to close that window but actually only one if you take it literally. All the other possible sentences are (polite) directives.

    I just saw Pascal Müller’s comment and somehow he put down the points I wanted to make so much more eloquently…

    So Thai, the word for “ask” in Thai is ถาม taam which can only mean ask in the sense of asking a question (never in the sense of asking for sth.), like to interrogate.
    ขอ khor or ขอร้อง khor-rong means to “ask (for)”, plead, request, beg
    Then there is ขอทาน khor-taan which means to beg only in the sense of begging on the streets either as beggar or mendicant. (literally it means begging for alms)

  • Mitchookie

    Hello :) I didn’t see anyone comment on sign language so I thought I would throw in my 2 cents. Sign language is a bit more visceral and pure imho. It involves body and facial expression as key components. To ask (this is Amercan sign language.) is a 2-handed gesture similar as one would use to pray; Palm to palm. Eyebrows might be raised when the question is put forth along with whatever applicable signs detailing the request. Begging, however, would involve more to show the degree of need. One hand palm down with the other palm up, back of the hands touching. The fingers of the hand with the palm up in a grabbing sort of position. The hands imply submission and the body in a shoulder-forward and slouched position showing vulnerability. The face would be used to show the degree of desperation. That’s where I see the difference plainly. Vulnerability. Desperation. Submission.

  • Random_Ood

    In Maori begging is ‘Te Tono’ while asking is ‘Tono’. The only difference being that begging has Te in front of it which means The. So translated begging is ‘The asking’. This what I like about Maori, there are no bad words its how you say it that defines it in a negative or positive light.

  • goodbye

    “APF’s Blog reserves the right to select, edit and arrange submissions, and to remove information from the AFP’s Blog and website at any time at its sole discretion. You further agree and acknowledge that submitting information and/or comments to AFP’s Blog does not entitle you to receive any compensation, credit or approval rights. You understand that AFP’s Blog has the right but not the obligation to use your comment.”

    Wow, that certainly spells out the nature of the relationship with fans. I assumed that fans would be quoted when contributing to the book. Guess not. Goodbye.

    • anon

      Not even free beer & hugs.

  • Sara Balsom

    Another interesting note for French:

    “Je t’en prie” (I beg/pray of you) is a very polite way to say “you’re welcome” and sometimes “please.” Like, if you are on the subway, and you want someone to get out before you, and they are maybe older or in the military or for whatever reason you want to show them a huge amount of respect, you would say, “je vous en prie”, and motion for them to go before you, like I beg you/pray for you to go before me. Similarly, if someone says thank you (“merci”) and you want to be super polite about it, you say “Je vous en prie,” and it’s like, no really, I beg/pray for you to take my help without thanks.

    Also, the regular word-phrase for “please” is “s’il vous plait” literally, if it pleases you. So when you’re not being super suppliant, you’re telling them to only help you if they can enjoy themselves while doing it. (Of course this isnt how you consciously think about these phrases when speaking in French, but it does reveal some things, I think, about how the culture sees pleasure and asking). — I’ve also noticed that the French tend to be more likely to accept suffering as a normal thing, and the language reflects this a lot, but that may be another issue.

    — Sara, B.A. French language/culture (So you know I’m not just talking out of my ass but also not a native speaker)

  • Daniel

    Words for asking and praying are closely related in many languages. That seems to have surprised you when you saw it in Swedish. I think it merits more exploration.

    I think to ask for something is always to praise, because it paints the asked as having the ability/ressources to help.

  • Alejandra Venturini

    When you translate “beg” to spanish, the very first definition that comes out is “mendigar”, meaning basically “what a beggar does”. Then follows “implorar” and “suplicar”, which is a humble way of asking something to God –and considered kind of demeaning when you do it to other people.

    So “to beg” is a extreme, desperate way of asking. And it is a embarrassing thing to do since it implies that you depent on someone. That you cannot fend for yourself. Which is, to my mind, a very self-centered way of thinking, since we live in an eternal symbiosis, even if some people just refuse to acknowledge –not even the importance, but the necessity of others in their lives.

  • Luxxe

    There’s a cute distinction in English: “Do you want some cake” means you’d like the person to have some. “Do you want any cake?” means: I have to ask you to be polite, but I don’t really want to give you any …

  • just_alexandra

    And for some Greek feedback:

    The verb “to ask” in Greek is ζητώ as opposed to “to beg” which is ικετεύω. The difference in these too in their meaning is that the second one is an intense asking implying some humiliation too. This is not very uncommon to many languages. What’s interesting is that the noun “beggar” is derived from ask and not from beg: ζητιάνος (ζητώ) or επαίτης (meaning someone asking, from the ancient Greek word ἐπαιτέω).

    Hope this helps a bit!

  • Florian

    I guess you know that yourself, but anyway: Adding to the connection between ‘begging’ and ‘praying’ in Swedish I can say that In German to beg means ‘betteln’ and to pray means ‘beten’, so it’s very likely that the two words go back to a common root.

  • Ashley Riley

    My name is Ashley, and I am from a small Indian reservation
    called Chippewa in Canada. Way out this way here, we have a very light, humorous way of asking for something. First Nations people view laughter as a release and also as a medicine for the spirit. Our people have survived
    cultural genocide and the battle with the government for our rights/earth/spirit
    as human beings is never ending. The first nation’s people of Canada have been through so much but one of the ways we find release is through means of
    laughter and a lot of it. Most of the times when our people are asking for
    something, they will say what they need to the person then laugh at the end of
    the question. “Hey do you maybe wanna bring me that file with those important
    documents in it?” and then burst into a roar of laughter. I feel like our people do this to lighten the situation of just plain asking, it can also be used to humor ourselves because we’re not people to take ourselves seriously. We find almost anything funny, I remember one time me and my friends were cruising on the rez, and my friend bumped her hand on the door and my other friend laughed so hard she started tearing up.

    The other night I was telling my best friend a really
    sad/funny story about the cat I rescued from six nations. It was a little
    female white and orange kitty and this kitty I called her “Queen Elizabeth”
    because her orange color was on the top of her head making it look like she was wearing a crown. Anyways Queen Elizabeth had a little boyfriend – it was an orange tabby cat. Back at my family house,in Chippewa we also have a orange tabby but this one was female. When I brought back Queen Elizabeth to my family house in Chippewa, she thought that the orange tabby cat was her boyfriend. Because in her mind that was her boyfriend, she would purr and stick her butt up in the air but the female tabby cat would just look at her. Anyways I told this story to my best friend, and she laughed so hard at the butt part that she was literally crying and saying “that was a funny but sad story”. Our humor is very much a part of the way we deal with things as well. So when we’re asking for something it’s also putting our pride down to ask for help, or to ask for something needed. Then the bursting of laughter happens to show we don’t take it that seriously we just really need that file full of documents. Lol !!!!

  • Sophia Munnik

    Hi Amanda I love this post mostly for the comments, I’m a South African linguistics student so everyone’s posts about their languages and cultures is fascinating to me! I thought I’d add a couple of things.

    In all languages intonation is important, when asking questions in any language you have to know or learn the right vocal ‘pattern’ to use. In English we hedge our questions, ‘Is it okay if…’ ‘Could you please…’ ‘Do you mind….’ And we end our questions with an upward intonation. While both asking and begging are questions, think about how the intonation changes for each action. The upward inflection let’s our interlocutor know that we’ve asked a question.

    When you learn a new language one of the hardest things is to learn the intonation for statements versus questions. In many Nguni languages like Zulu, Xhosa or Sotho, the intonation is really different for questions. When you’re trying to be super polite you ask questions with the same intonation as an English command, the words even change. There’s no can or please it’s just ‘You give me….’ Now in English this is highly offensive so there’s often misunderstandings between English and mostly non- English speaking people. I had this brought home to me when a beggar stood at my car window and said ‘You give me two rand!’ So in Zulu he would have been begging but in English he was not only asking but demanding!

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