Posted by: janecronin | January 7, 2018


This verb means “to order” or “to ask for”, “to request”.  The English verbal phrase “to ask for” illustrates a particular problem for us as English speakers when we translate from English into Spanish.  You may be aware that “to ask” in Spanish (as in “to ask a question”) is “preguntar”, and it is very common for people to assume that “to ask for” is therefore “preguntar para”. However, what we need to realise is that in English we often add a second word to a verb in order to change its meaning completely.  If you analyse the meanings of “ask” in the two phrases: “to ask a question” and “to ask for a beer” (that is, to request a beer), you should see that they exemplify two different uses of the verb “ask”.  Another example of this phenomenon is the verb “look”, where “to look for” and “to look after” express two complete different meanings, which in Spanish are represented by completely different verbs “buscar” and “cuidar”.

So, we can use “pedir” in the context of ordering a drink or meal in a bar or restaurant as well as ordering a product or service in a shop or on the Internet.  We can “pedir un favor” (to ask (for) a favour) and if someone asks for the impossible, the Spanish have the expression “pedir la luna” (to ask for the moon) which I have a feeling comes from a children’s story.  A similar expression is “pedir peras al olmo” (to ask for pears from an elm tree).

As far as the grammar of this verb goes, it is what we call a “root changing” verb in the present tense.  It belongs to the group that substitutes the “e” for an “i” in some forms, as follows:  Pido (I ask for); pides (you ask for); pide (he or she asks for); pedimos (we ask for); pedís (you ask for -plural); piden (they ask for).

There are two nouns formed from “pedir”, one is “pedido” which means “an order” as in the sentence: “Gracias por su pedido” (thank you for your order).  This noun is formed from the past participle of the verb, so the same word is used in the very useful sentence: “Ya hemos pedido” (we have already ordered).  The second noun, which is less obvious, is “petición” which means “a formal request”. “Petición” in Spanish can also have the meaning we give it in English, as a written request to authority signed by a large number of people, but its principle meaning in Spanish does not include the idea of mass support.

Finally, here is a compound verb based on “pedir” which is “despedir” (to dismiss).  This can be used in the positive sense of “saying goodbye” or in the more negative meaning of “giving someone the sack”.  “Me han despedido” (They’ve given me the sack, or,, I’ve been given the sack).  When simply saying goodbye, we usually use the reflexive form “despedirse de” so, as I have arrived at the end of this article – “me despido de vosotros por esta semana y nos vemos la semana que viene”.


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