Spanish Grammar: Preguntar vs Pedir vs Ordenar

Spanish Grammar: Preguntar vs Pedir vs Ordenar

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As a Spanish student, you’ll come across certain verbs that when translated directly, look like they have the same meaning, but in reality, each verb has a specific use. A good example of this is Preguntar vs Pedir vs Ordenar, which we’ll explain in this post.

Let’s look at the exact translations for each one:

  • Preguntar (To ask)
  • Pedir (To ask, ask for, request)
  • Ordenar (To order, to sort, to command) 

It’s easy to see how these verbs sometimes cause confusion for English speakers, at least in the case of Pedir and Preguntar, which are used in a similar way.

Below are some examples of all three verbs being used in a different way when ordering food, asking for information, and even giving orders.

  • I’m going to order pizza – Voy a pedir pizza
  • I already ordered the documents – Ya ordené los documentos
  • Ask what time it is – Pregunta qué hora es
  • The judge ordered the suspect to be captured- El juez ordenó la captura del sospechoso

In this post, we’ll clarify exactly how Spanish verb is used, depending on what you wish to express.

How To Use Preguntar

Among the three verbs we’re going to explain, preguntar is probably the easiest to understand, since it always has the same purpose: to ask questions or inquire about something (or someone).

The English equivalent of the verb preguntar is to ask or to wonder.

We use the verb preguntar when we want to find out a piece of information, whether it’s asking about a price, a person’s age, schedules, time, names, addresses, etc.

Let’s see how to conjugate it in the most common Spanish tenses.

Personal pronoun Present Simple Past Future Imperfect Past Tense
Yo Pregunto

I ask

Pregunté

I asked

Preguntaré

I will ask

Preguntaba

I used to ask

Preguntas

You ask

Preguntaste

You asked

Preguntarás

You will ask

Preguntabas

You used to ask

Él – Ella Pregunta

He/She asks

Preguntó

He/She asked

Preguntará

He/She will ask

Preguntaba

He/She used to ask

Usted Pregunta

You ask

Preguntó

You asked

Preguntará

You will ask

Preguntaba

You used to ask

Nosotros Preguntamos

We ask

Preguntamos

We asked

Preguntaremos

We will ask

Preguntábamos

We used to ask

Ustedes Preguntan

You ask

Preguntaron

You asked

Preguntarán

You will ask

Preguntaban

You used to ask

Ellos Preguntan

They ask

Preguntaron

They asked

Preguntarán

The will ask

Preguntaban

They used to ask

And now, some examples of preguntar being used in full sentences.

  • Can you ask what the next available flight is? – ¿Puedes preguntar cuál es el próximo vuelo disponible?
  • They asked me a lot of things in the job interview – Ellos me preguntaron muchas cosas en la entrevista de trabajo
  • I wonder where the children will be now – Yo me pregunto dónde estarán ahora los niños
  • A lady in the market asked me if I could help her with her bags – Una señora en el mercado me preguntó si podía ayudarla con sus bolsas
  • I’m going to ask how much that dress costs – Voy a preguntar cuánto cuesta ese vestido
  • They asked at the reception desk if there were rooms available – Ellos preguntaron en recepción si habían habitaciones disponibles
  • Stop the car to ask where the hotel is – Detén el auto para preguntar donde queda el hotel
  • Tomorrow you will ask your teacher when the exam will be – Mañana le preguntarás a tu profesor cuando será el exámen

How To Use Pedir

The verb pedir is used when we want to ask, request, or order something in particular.

It’s important to reiterate that pedir isn’t used to ask questions about ideas or concepts. For that, you use preguntar.

Back to pedir, we use this verb when asking for something in a restaurant, or for favors or when you need someone to do something for you – not as command, but more as a request.

  • Just order the burger without cheese – Solo pide la hamburguesa sin queso
  • Can I ask you for a favour? – ¿Puedo pedirte un favor?

Now, let’s review how to conjugate pedir in the major Spanish tenses.

Personal pronoun Present Simple Past Future Imperfect Past Tense
Yo Pido

I ask for

Pedí

I asked for

Pediré

I will ask for

Pedía

I used to ask for

Pides

You ask for

Pediste

You asked for

Pedirás

You will ask for

Pedías

You used to ask for

Él – Ella Pide

He/She asks for

Pidió

He/She asked for

Pedirá

He/She will ask for

Pedía

He/She used to ask for

Usted Pide

You ask for

Pidió

You asked for

Pedirá

You will ask for

Pedía

You used to ask for

Nosotros Pedimos

We ask for

Pedimos

We asked for

Pediremos

We will ask for

Pedíamos

We used to ask for

Ustedes Piden

You ask for

Pidieron

You asked for

Pedirán

You will ask for

Pedían

You used to ask for

Ellos Piden

The ask for

Pidieron

They asked for

Pedirán

They will ask for

Pedían

They used to ask for

Below are the most common scenarios for using pedir.

1) For ordering food

  • I would like to order the pasta with vegetables – Quisiera pedir la pasta con vegetales
  • I don’t want to cook, better to order Chinese food – No quiero cocinar, mejor vamos a pedir comida china
  • Why don’t you ask for the wine menu? – ¿Por qué no pides el menú de vinos?
  • You should ask for the lemon pie – Deberías pedir el pie de limón

2) To request something

  • We asked for a room with an ocean view, and the one they gave us is not like that – Nosotros pedimos una habitación con vista al mar, y la que nos dieron no es así.
  • I’m going to ask for a discount – Voy a pedir un descuento
  • Let’s ask the taxi to come earlier – Vamos a pedirle al taxi que venga más temprano
  • They are already asking for all the information – Ellos ya están pidiendo toda la información

3) To request favors

  • Guys, please, can I ask you to be quiet? – Chicos, por favor, ¿puedo pedirles un poco de silencio?
  • I ask you never to lie to me – Te pido que nunca me mientas
  • Ask your sister to help you with homework – Pídele a tu hermana que te ayude con la tarea
  • He asked me to accompany him to the airport – Él me pidió que lo acompañara al aeropuerto

How To Use Ordendar

And finally, we come to the verb ordenar, which can mean “to order“, “to sort out” and also “to command”, but it’s typically used to order food.

Now, let’s see how to conjugate ordenar in some of the major Spanish tenses.

Personal pronoun Present Simple Past Future Imperfect Past Tense
Yo Ordeno

I order

Ordené

I ordered

Ordenaré

I will order

Ordenaba

I used to  order

Ordenas

You order

Ordenaste

You ordered

Ordenarás

You will order

Ordenabas

You used to order

Él – Ella Ordena

He/She orders

Ordenó

He/She ordered

Ordenará

He/She will order

Ordenaba

He/She used to order

Usted Ordena

You order

Ordenó

You ordered

Ordenará

You will order

Ordenaba

You used to order

Nosotros Ordenamos

We order

Ordenamos

We ordered

Ordenaremos

We will order

Ordenábamos

We used to order

Ustedes Ordenan

You order

Ordenaron

You ordered

Ordenarán

You will order

Ordenaban

You used to order

Ellos Ordenan

They order

Ordenaron

They ordered

Ordenarán

They will order

Ordenaban

They used to order

And now, some examples of how to use ordendar in various scenarios.

1) Ordering food

  • I’d like to order the cheese-edge pizza – Quisiera ordenar la pizza con borde de queso
  • Tell the waiter that we are ready to order – Dile al mesero que estamos listos para ordenar
  • What would you like to order for dessert? – ¿Que les gustaría ordenar de postre?
  • We are going to order the paella for 4 people – Vamos a ordenar la paella para 4 personas

2) To put something in order or sort out

  • You have to sort the list in alphabetical order – Tienes que ordenar la lista por orden alfabético
  • You will not leave until you sort out your room – No vas a salir hasta que ordenes tu habitación
  • The students did not order the classroom before leaving – Los alumnos no ordenaron el salón de clase antes de irse
  • I like to order/sort my clothes by color – Me gusta ordenar mi ropa por color

3) To order as a command

  • The director of the school ordered to change the schedule class – El director de la escuela ordenó el cambio de horario de las clases
  • The general ordered the soldiers to go to battle – El general le ordenó a los soldados que fueran a la batalla
  • The dog understands all the orders I give him – El perro entiende todas las órdenes que le doy
  • You have to pay attention to the orders given to you – Tienen que prestar atención a las órdenes que se les da

Pedir vs Preguntar vs Ordenar: Exercises

Choose between ordenar, preguntar o pedir as needed

1. Quiero ______ comida italiana

(I want to order Italian food)

2. Tenemos que ______ la casa antes de que llegue mi mamá

(We have to put in order the house before my mom arrives)

3. ¿Puedes ______ si tienen torta de chocolate?

(Can you ask if they have chocolate cake?)

4. ______ al camarero que traiga agua

(Ask the waiter to bring water)

5. ¿Puedo ______ algo?

(Can I ask something?)

6. Tienes que aprender a ______ ayuda

(You have to learn to ask for help)

7. El profesor le ______ a los alumnos que hicieran silencio

(The teacher ordered the students to be quiet)

8. El profesor le ______ a los alumnos que dejaran todo limpio

(The teacher asked the students to leave everything clean)

9. Me han ______ muchas cosas en el aeropuerto

(I’ve been asked a lot of things at the airport)

10. Ella seguro ______ el helado más grande

(She will surely order the biggest ice cream)

Answers

1. Quiero ordenar comida italiana

2. Tenemos que ordenar la casa antes de que llegue mi mamá

3. ¿Puedes preguntar si tienen torta de chocolate?

4. Pídele al camarero que traiga agua

5. ¿Puedo preguntar algo?

6. Tienes que aprender a pedir ayuda

7. El profesor le ordenó a los alumnos que hicieran silencio

8. El profesor le pidió a los alumnos que dejaran todo limpio

9. Me han preguntado muchas cosas en el aeropuerto

10. Ella seguro ordenará el helado más grande

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