Here are six phrasal verbs with “ask;” “ask about,” “ask after,” “ask around/round,” “ask back,” “ask for,” and “ask out.”


Ask about (somebody)

1.   (inseparable) To ask for information about someone, especially about their health.
  • “Ever since you got hospitalised, Mum’s been asking about you.”
  • “The CEO asked about our manager yesterday and if we had any news of when he’ll come back.”
2.   (inseparable) To know how somebody is, what they are doing, etc.
  • “Wally’s been asking a lot about Eve lately – he seems really interested in her.”
  • “My neighbour asked about the puppy yesterday. It was really sweet of him.”
Preposition: About

“About” can mean “concerning” or “on the subject of.” It is quite common to hear this used to ask about things or make enquiries.

  • “I went to see the lecturer to ask about Victorian history.”
  • “I’m calling to ask about the holiday package to South Korea.”

Ask after (somebody)

1. (inseparable) To ask for information about someone, especially about their health.

This could be outdated, but there is some evidence that it is still being used.

It may also be considered more formal and personal than “ask about,” but this is not that clear in the Cambridge Dictionary.

  • “Ever since you got hospitalised, Mum’s been asking after you.”
  • “The CEO asked after you yesterday. He heard you’ve been on sick leave for a while.”

Ask around

1. (intransitive) To ask different people to get information or help.
  • “I tried asking around but no one seems to know where the toilet is.”
  • “I’m sure someone will be free to give you a hand if you ask around.”

Ask (somebody) back

1.   (separable) To invite someone to return to a place or an event.
  • “He asked me back to his place but I declined.”
  • “I thought we wouldn’t be asked back after the mess we left last time.”
2.   (separable) To ask someone to return for another interview for a job.
  • “It’s always both nerve-racking and a relief to be asked back for a second interview.”
  • “Can you email these candidates to ask them back for a final round of interviews?”
Similar phrasal verbs: “Ask back” or “Invite back”

Alternatively, you can use “invite back” to mean the same thing.

  • “He invited me back to his place but I declined.”
  • “We’ve been invited back for next month’s competition.”

Ask for (somebody/something)

1.   “Ask for (somebody)” – (inseparable) To request to see or speak to someone.
  • “When you arrive, ask for Eve at the reception.”
  • “Someone asked for you earlier but they didn’t leave a message.”
2.   “Ask for (something)” – (inseparable) To request something to be given to you.
  • “It’s okay to ask for help.”
  • “I asked the waiter for more rice but they ran out.”
Similar expressions: “Ask for” or “Ask to + (verb)”

“Ask to + verb” – To request to see or speak to someone, or to request something. 

However, “ask for” sounds more natural and sounds more polite and “ask to” sounds more demanding.

Compare the following sentences: 

  • “When you arrive, ask for Eve at the reception.”
  • “When you arrive, ask to see Eve at the reception.”
  • “I asked the waiter for more rice but they ran out.”
  • “I asked the waiter to give me more rice but they ran out.”

Ask (somebody) out

1. (separated) To invite somebody out on a date as a way of starting a romantic relationship.
  • “After all this time, he finally asked her out.”
  • “I think it’s pretty obvious I’m asking you out.”
Similar expressions: “Ask out” or “Invite”

“Invite” does not always imply romantic gestures unless context is provided. However “ask out” almost always implies romantic intentions.

  • “He invited her to try out the new cafe around the corner.”
    Although this could be a date, this could also just be friends getting coffee together.
  • “After all this time, he finally invited her to dinner.”
    Dinner is often considered a date activity, and that he “finally” invited her implies he’s been thinking about it for a while.
  • “He invited her to share a cozy weekend together.”
    Definitely sounds like a romantic relationship.

  • “Couldn’t ask for (somebody/something)” 
    – To emphasise that somebody or something is the best.

    With a comparative adjective.

    • “Wally was really understanding and compassionate about my situation – I couldn’t have asked for a more caring boss.”
    • “The wedding was great! Couldn’t have asked for better weather.”

    “Ask for trouble/it” 
    – (informal) To behave in a way so that something unpleasant is likely to happen to you.

    • “You’re just asking for trouble if you keep provoking people like that.”
    • “People who behave that way are just asking for it.”

    Original post: 8 February 2021