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Ask and Demand

Ask and Demand
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This week we answer a question from Nangatoum, from Chad.


I would like to know the difference between "ask" and "demand" and when to use each of them. - Nangatoum, Chad


Dear Nangatoum,

Thanks for "asking" this question – and not "demanding" an answer. These words can be used in similar situations. The difference between them is in the force of the words. When you think you would like something, you may "ask" for it. But if you think you have a right to something, you are more likely to "demand" it.

"Ask" and "demand" are both verbs. We often use "demand" as a noun, but rarely use "ask" as a noun. Here are examples:

You should ask the office for technical support.

The workers gave their supervisor a list of demands.


We usually use "ask" in request of something.

Let me ask you a question.

Did you ask your friend to come to the party?


"Demand" has a much stronger feel than "ask." A person who leads an effort, like a teacher or employer, would be more likely to make demands.

The teacher demanded an answer to the question.

The police demanded that I show my identification.

Notice the word "that" after "demand" in our example. The part of the sentence following "demand that" must have the simple form of a verb. For example,

Our town is demanding that everyone stay at home.

The verb "stay" is the simple form of the verb. It does not change when the subject is plural:

The governor demanded that all citizens stay inside.

Another way we use "demand" these days is in talking about the "on-demand economy." That is the term used for internet-based businesses such as ride-sharing, meal delivery and online shopping which connect purchasers immediately and directly with goods and services. When you "demand" an Uber or Lyft car, it comes to you.


To review, when someone "asks" you to do something, you usually have a choice: You can do it or not do it. When someone "demands" that you do something you might not be able to refuse.

And now, I will ask you to do something. Please send your questions about English to us by email:

And that's Ask a Teacher for this week.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

reviewn. an act of carefully looking at or examining the quality or condition of something or someone

shoppingn. the activity of visiting places where goods are sold in order to look at and buy things such as food and clothing

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