Chinese Verbs

How to Say “Ask” in Chinese with 问 Wen Mandarin & Responding to Indirect Questions or Reported Speech?



Chinese Verbs – Ask | 问 Wen and Using Indirect Questions / Reported Speech in Mandarin

Ask in Chinese – 问 Wen Mandarin

Ask in Chinese is Wèn Mandarin. For asking someone that you do not know well or a stranger, we frequently add 请问 Qǐngwèn请问你 Qǐngwèn nǐ or 请问您 Qǐngwèn nín (formal) at the start of our question which translates to “May I ask (you)…” especially when we ask for directions in Chinese. You can refer to the post for such examples.

How to Say “May I Ask You a Question” in Chinese?

Here are some ways to ask a question. The first two are to people with whom you are familiar, and the last two are usually not. If you have a couple of questions to ask, you can change 一个 Yīgè (singular) to 一些 Yīxiē (a few).

I ask you a question.
Can I ask you a question?
May I ask you a question?
May I ask you if I can ask a question?

我问你一个问题。
我可以问你一个问题吗?
请问我可以问你一个问题吗?
请问您我可以问一个问题吗?

Wǒ wèn nǐ yī gè wèn tí.
Wǒ kě yǐ wèn nǐ yī gè wèn tí ma?
Qǐng wèn wǒ kě yǐ wèn nǐ yī gè wèn tí ma?
Qǐng wèn nín wǒ kě yǐ wèn yī gè wèn tí ma?


Why Reiterate “May I Ask” in Chinese When One Can Ask a Question Directly?

You can pose your questions directly to anyone without starting with “请问 Qǐngwèn” or “我想问 Wǒ xiǎng wèn”.

The purpose of starting a question with “May I ask” or “I would like to ask” in Chinese before your actual question is to prep the other party into a condition before their replies.

Sometimes the question posed can be rather solemn or sensitive. Hence, the reiteration of “Can I ask you (something)?” before revealing the real subject in mind.

Moreover, the person asking might have an emotional state and requires more time to organise his thoughts or questions before popping it.




8 Possible Ways to Ask in Chinese

Below are 8 Possible ways to Ask in Chinese. The dotted lines are the actual questions that you really want to ask and can be anything else.

May I ask (you)…?请问 (你)。。。?Qǐngwèn (nǐ)…?
I ask you…?我问你。。。?Wǒ wèn nǐ…?
I want to ask (you)…?我要问 (你)。。。?Wǒ yào wèn (nǐ)…?
Can I ask (you)…?我可以问 (你)。。。?Wǒ kěyǐ wèn (nǐ)…?
Am I able to ask (you)…?我能问 (你)。。。?Wǒ néng wèn (nǐ)…?
I would like to ask (you)…?我想问 (你)。。。?Wǒ xiǎng wèn (nǐ)…?
Let me ask you…?让我来问你。。。?Ràng wǒ lái wèn nǐ…?
I will ask (you)…?我会问 (你)。。。?Wǒ huì wèn (nǐ)…?



May I ask you if anybody is sitting here? Can I sit here?

请问你这个位子有人坐吗?我可以坐在这里吗?
Qǐng wèn nǐ zhè ge wèi zi yǒu rén zuò ma? Wǒ kě yǐ zuò zài zhè lǐ ma?


I ask you. Do you know who that person is?

我问你,你知道那个人是谁吗?
Wǒ wèn nǐ, nǐ zhī dào nà gè rén shì shéi ma?


I want to ask you. When are you free to teach me some cooking?

我要问你,几时有空教我一些烹饪?
Wǒ yào wèn nǐ, jǐ shí yǒu kòng jiào wǒ yī xiē pēng rèn?


Can I ask you? Do you know…?

我可以问你吗?你知道。。。?
Wǒ kě yǐ wèn nǐ ma? Nǐ zhī dào…?


Am I able to ask you…?

我能问你。。。?
Wǒ néng wèn nǐ…?


I would like to ask you some opinions. Do you think that…?

我想问你一些意见。你觉得。。。?
Wǒ xiǎng wèn nǐ yī xiē yì jiàn. Nǐ jué dé…?


Let me ask you something. …?

让我来问你一些东西。 。。。?
Ràng wǒ lái wèn nǐ yīxiē dōngxī. …?


(Future Conditional Tense) I will ask you… by then, will you regret the decision you make today?

我会问你…到时你会后悔你今天所做的决定吗?
Wǒ huì wèn nǐ…dào shí nǐ huì hòu huǐ nǐ jīn tiān suǒ zuò de jué dìng ma?


Forming Non-Questions Sentences with Ask in Mandarin – 问 Wen Chinese

A few examples not relating to asking questions including the negation – 不问 Bù wèn and 没问 Méi wèn. In my opinion, the most common and generic phrases used out of the above eight to ask in Chinese would be “问(你)…” for all circumstances. At least, that is what I would typically use. Some others would sound a bit authoritative and perhaps abrupt if you do not know a person well.

I ask you so many times. You always say cannot.

我问你那么多次,你总是说不可以。
Wǒ wèn nǐ nà me duō cì, nǐ zǒng shì shuō bu kěyǐ.


I have already asked you a few times. Every time, you agree. Why is it that this time you do not agree?

我已经问了你几次,你每次都同意。为什么这次你不同意呢?
Wǒ yǐ jīng wèn le nǐ jǐ cì, nǐ měi cì dōu tóng yì. Wèi shén me zhè cì nǐ bù tóng yì ne?


You forgot that you have asked me this question a few days ago. I did agree.

你忘了你前几天问过我这个问题。我也答应了。
Nǐ wàng le nǐ qián jǐ tiān wèn guò wǒ zhè ge wèn tí. Wǒ yě dā yìng le.


I will never ask him in future.

我以后再也不问他了。
Wǒ yǐ hòu zài yě bù wèn tā le.


(Angry State) I did not ask you any opinion!

我没问你任何意见!
Wǒ méi wèn nǐ rèn hé yì jiàn!



Indirect Questions / Reported Speech to Ask in Chinese

Indirect Question is also known as Reported Question or Reported Speech in English when you ask in Chinese.

  • Direct Question: “Do you smoke?” 
  • Indirect Question: “He asked me if I smoked.”

Learning similar Reported Speech phrasal construction in Mandarin is practical for everyday conversation.

Note that in the Mandarin Indirect Questions, the Chinese language does not take the Subordinate Conjunction words like ‘if’ and ‘whether’ into consideration during transliteration. In another word, ‘if’ and ‘whether’ are redundant words in the translated Chinese sentences here.

Chinese Reported Questions are not that difficult to form due to the lack of tenses, unlike English. Fundamentally, the Chinese Reported Speech follows accordingly to the direct questions with minimal changes. One good example is a change from ‘here‘ to ‘there‘.

I have placed a symbol | to indicate the duplicate phrase asked in the subordinate clause of the Reported Speech.


Do you smoke?
He asked me if I smoked.

有抽烟吗?
他问我|有抽烟吗。

Yǒu chōu yān ma?
Tā wèn | wǒ yǒu chōu yān ma.


Have you been to Poland?
She asked us whether we have been to Poland.

你们有去过波兰吗?
她问|我们有去过波兰吗。

Nǐ men yǒu qù guò bō lán ma?
Tā wèn | wǒ men yǒu qù guò bō lán ma.


Why was he late?
The boss asked me why he was late. I said I did not know.

为什么他迟到?
老板问我|为什么他迟到。我说我不知道。

Wèi shé me tā chí dào?
Lǎobǎn wèn wǒ | wèi shé me tā chí dào. Wǒ shuō wǒ bù zhī dào.


Are we meeting here tomorrow?
They asked us if we are meeting there tomorrow.

我们明天是不是在这里见面?
他们问|我们明天是不是在那里见面。

Wǒ men míng tiān shì bù shì zài zhè lǐ jiàn miàn?
Tā men wèn wǒ men míng tiān shì bù shì zài nà lǐ jiàn miàn.


What happened?
I asked the neighbours what had happened. They said their house was on fire.

发生了什么事?
我问邻居|发生了什么事。他们说他们的家着火了。

Fā shēng le shén me shì?
Wǒ wèn lín jū | fā shēng le shén me shì. Tā men shuō tā men de jiā zháo huǒ le.


What do you think of the new colleague? I find him very friendly.

1. Ali asked Michael how he felt about the new colleague. He found him very friendly.
2. Ali asked Michael about the impression of the new colleague. Ali felt that he was friendly.

你觉得那位新同事如何?我觉得他很友善。

1. 阿里问迈克尔|觉得那位新同事如何。他觉得彼得很友善。
2. 阿里问迈克尔对新同事的印象。阿里觉得他很友善。

Nǐ jué dé nà wèi xīn tóng shì rú hé? Wǒ jué dé tā hěn yǒu shàn.

1. Ā Lǐ wèn Mài Kè’ěr | jué dé nà wèi xīn tóng shì rú hé. Tā jué dé bǐ dé hěn yǒu shàn.
2. Ā Lǐ wèn Mài Kè’ěr duì xīn tóng shì de yìn xiàng. Ālǐ jué dé tā hěn yǒu shàn.

 

The last sentence is a rephrase of the original question asked in Chinese. Certainly of what is happening in real life where you might not parrot out every word that has been said but only to summarise the gist of the question.

To learn more Chinese Verbs, refer to the list of more than 150 Mandarin verbs.

 

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