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In English we have different words for the verb to ask and the noun question.

But in Spanish to ask is preguntar and question is pregunta.

This always causes me to stumble when speaking Spanish and I come to say something I would phrase in English as to ask a question. Because saying preguntar una pregunta sounds definitely wrong.

In Spanish would I substitute a synonym for preguntar or for pregunta or would I have to recast each sentence on a case by case basis?


Of course there are other senses of preguntar and pregunta and other words for other senses of to ask and question, but they're not relevant to this question. You cannot say:

  • preguntar un cuestión (literally "ask a matter")
  • pedir una pregunta (literally "request a question")

Indeed you can often avoid needing both a verb and its object but sometimes its either not avoidable or requires changing the sentence completely (randomly googled examples):

  • Have interview questions of your own ready to ask.
  • Interview Questions to Ask the Employer
  • Most Commonly Asked Sawfish Questions
  • Frequently Asked Antitrust Questions
  • when asking or answering questions ...
  • ... they ask themselves two questions.
  • The better question to ask is how many young people refuse to use the ...
  • How To Ask Basic Questions Using Sign Language
  • Both asking and answering questions are important parts of effective learning and teaching.
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I'm just here to add that "question" doesn't always translate as «pregunta»; when you want to discuss an issue or controversy rather than just an interrogative, you need «cuestión». The next time you're discussing the Schleswig-Holstein Question, it's what you want. And Spanish for "ask" is usually «pedir», unless all you want is the answer to a question, so the English equivalent for «preguntar» really requires both "ask" and "question." Oh, and "to question" is «interrogar». It's like a tar pit for anybody who wants to translate word-by-word. –  Brian Dec 3 '11 at 11:54
    
@Brian yeah I didn't want to go into all of that stuff because they are separate senses and might confuse or distract some readers. –  hippietrail Dec 3 '11 at 12:59

1 Answer 1

up vote 17 down vote accepted

To ask a question is Hacer una pregunta. Some examples:

  • Él me hizo una pregunta. (= He asked me a question.) And also: "Él me preguntó".
  • Déjame hacerte una pregunta. (= Let me ask you a question.)

Preguntar una pregunta does sound wrong to me as well; it's redundant. You only need to say it once, for example:

Pregúntame lo que quieres. (= Ask me whatever you want.)

This example, though correct grammatically, doesn't sound right, a Spanish speaker won't use this form. It would be either "Pregúntame lo que quier*a*s" or "Dime lo que quieres".

You've given some interesting examples in your question. Next to each one is how I would handle it in general terms. Others may tackle them differently:

  • Prepare sus propias preguntas de entrevista. In Castilian Spanish the correct form is Prepare sus propias preguntas para la entrevista. (Have interview questions of your own ready to ask.)

  • Preguntas de entrevista para hacer al empleador. Ditto: Preguntas para hacer durante la entrevista a la empresa (Interview questions to ask the employer.)

  • (Las) preguntas más comúnes sobre el Pez Sierra.
    (Most commonly asked sawfish questions.)

  • Frequently Asked Antitrust Questions.
    (same idea, but I'd use frecuentes instead of comunes, naturally.)

  • Haciendo o respondiendo preguntas OR cuando preguntas se hagan o respondan
    (when asking or answering questions.)

  • Ellos se hacen dos preguntas.
    (they ask themselves two questions.)

  • La mejor pregunta para hacer es cuántos jóvenes negan usar el/la ... Ditto: La pregunta más apropiada es cuántos jóvenes se n*i*egan a usar el/la ...
    (The better question to ask is how many young people refuse to use the ... )

  • Cómo hacer preguntas básicas con el lenguaje por señas.
    (How to ask basic questions using sign language.)

  • Hacer y responder preguntas, las dos son partes importantes de aprendizaje efectivo y enseñanza efectiva. Ditto: Preguntar y responder, ambas son partes importantes de un aprendizaje y enseñanza efectivos. (Both asking and answering questions are important parts of effective learning and teaching.)

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Thanks for the good answer. I edited my question with a bunch of examples where the second way doesn't work so easily. –  hippietrail Dec 3 '11 at 13:00
1  
I expanded on ay answer with what I would do in those situations. Most use the straightforward hacer una pregunta and responder una pregunta constructs. –  Kevin K. Dec 3 '11 at 22:43
    
I'm going to delete the parts on translating "ask a matter" and "request a question" from this otherwise excellent answer because those don't even make sense in English. They were not translation problems like the others but illustrations of how word-for-word translations often don't work. –  hippietrail Feb 10 '13 at 7:31
1  
Wow, did I really write this answer? Blast from the past. In any case, no issues with the edit. –  Kevin K. Feb 10 '13 at 8:47

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