(#21) Can I ask / 请问

喂 wei2 hallo.
问你找谁? qing3 wen4 ni3 zhao3 shui2? Can I ask who are you looking for?

喂 wei2 hallo.
问 James 在吗?qing3 wen4 James zai4 ma1? Can I ask if James is in?


请问 qing3 wen4 is a polite phrase that can be added to the front of a sentence to add politeness to the conversation. You can use it in any situations where you need to ask for information.


Individually, 请 qing3 can mean ‘please’, ‘invite’, ‘ask’, or ‘request’, depending on the context; 问 wen4 means ‘ask’. Combined, it does not have an equivilent translation in english, and the closest I can explain is ‘can I ask’. It can be omitted, but adding it will make the sentence polite (especially since you might be asking a stranger for information). At the same time, adding 请问 qing3 wen4 to the beginning of sentence gives the listener a ‘warning’ that a question is going to come his/her way.


请问图书馆怎么去?qing3 wen4 tu2 shu1 guan3 zen3 me4 qu4? Can I ask how to go to the library?
请问这个多少钱?qing3 wen4 zhe4 ge4 duo1 shao3 qian2? Can I ask how much is this?


New Vocabulary:

  • 喂 wei2 hallo
  • 找  zhao3 look
  • 图书馆 tu2 shu1 guan3 library
  • 多少 duo1 shao3 how much
  • 多少钱 duo1 shao3 qian2 how much does it cost
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