Ordenar vs Pedir: What’s the Difference Between these Spanish Verbs?
Some Spanish verbs can get confusing at times, especially due to their similarities with other verbs, which is the case of ordenar and pedir. These two verbs seem to work in the same situations, but is that always the case?
So, the big question is: what’s the difference between the Spanish verbs ordenar and pedir? And, what does preguntar have to do with any of them?
Keep reading to discover the answer to these and other questions that I’m discussing with you today. For example, what are the meanings of these three verbs, what’s the difference between them? When you should use each one, and how to conjugate them. You’ll have the chance to test your understanding of this lesson with a simple quiz at the end of it. Good luck!
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Ordenar vs Pedir
Sometimes in Spanish, you get two verbs that appear to mean the same thing or have the same function, but when having a closer look at them you can see the little differences between them. You can read a good example of this in the article Saber vs Conocer: Get to Know These Spanish Verbs.
Ordenar vs Pedir is another case of two Spanish verbs playing similar roles but with small subtleties that only natives or advanced Spanish students know how to use them properly. And now you, once you finish reading this post!
Pedir vs Preguntar
Before getting directly into the differences between ordenar and pedir, let me introduce another level to our conversation. Because once you include pedir in the discussion, it’s almost mandatory to bring preguntar too.
These three verbs: ordenar, pedir, preguntar, are closely intertwined and native Spanish speakers use them indistinctly many times but also use them to express completely different ideas. Let’s see how they do this, and learn when you can use ordenar, perdir, or preguntar, and when is better to use one of these Spanish verbs over the other.
Ordenar vs Pedir vs Preguntar, Which Verb Should You Use?
If you aren’t familiarized with these 3 Spanish verbs, maybe you don’t see the problem. Let me explain by showing you the translations of these verbs:
- Ordenar – to order, to command, to sort.
- Pedir – to ask, to ask for, to request.
- Preguntar – to ask.
There you can see the chain of meanings that creates confusion with these verbs. To order, to request, to ask for, to ask. “To order” is very similar in meaning to “to request” and even “to ask for,” as you can “order” your dinner or “ask for” your dinner. You can also “ask” for help, and “ask” a question.
Meaning and Conjugation of These 3 Spanish Verbs
Ordenar means “to command,” “to sort,” or “to order.” It’s this last meaning that creates confusion on so many Spanish learners because natives use ordenar “to order” their food at a restaurant, or “to order” a package from an online shop, for example.
The Spanish verb ordenar is used to give commands:
Te ordeno que te detengas.
I command you to stop.
To express an idea of sorting something out or cleaning a space:
Estoy ordenando mi cuarto.
I’m cleaning my room. (I’m sorting the mess I had in my room.)
To order for something:
¿Están listos para ordenar?
Are you ready to order?
You can instinctively feel that hidden in this last example may lay the root of the confusion. Although, in this case, ordenar is used in the sense of “to order,” you can see that in its origins ordenar could be understood as “giving a command” to your waiter.
Te ordeno que me traigas mi cena.
I order you to bring me my dinner.
These days, nobody would speak like that to a waiter, it’s rude and even offensive. But linguistically explains this use of the verb ordenar, especially if you consider that “the order” in Spanish means la orden or “the command.”
Ordenar Conjugation Set
|yo ordeno||I order|
|tú ordenas||you order|
|él/ella ordena||he/she orders|
|nosotros ordenamos||we order|
|ustedes ordenan||you order|
|ellos/ellas ordenan||they order|
For all the examples on this post, I’m using the verbs in the sense that lends to confusion with the other two verbs. This way you can see the little differences in their use.
Ellos ordenan una computadora nueva en línea.
They order a new computer online.
¿Ordenas la comida por favor?
Can you order the food, please?
|yo ordené||I ordered|
|tú ordenaste||you ordered|
|él/ella ordenó||he/she ordered|
|nosotros ordenamos||we ordered|
|ustedes ordenaron||you ordered|
|ellos/ellas ordenaron||they ordered|
Ordené esta mochila hace mucho tiempo.
I ordered this backpack a long time ago.
Nosotros ordenamos antes que ellos.
We ordered before them.
|yo ordenaré||I will order|
|tú ordenarás||you will order|
|él/ella ordenará||he/she will order|
|nosotros ordenaremos||we will order|
|ustedes ordenarán||you will order|
|ellos/ellas ordenarán||they will order|
Ordenaré las flores para mamá.
I’ll order the flowers for mom.
¿Crees que Carlos ordenará algo para cenar?
Do you think Carlos will order something for dinner?
Pedir means “to ask,” “to ask for,” or “to request.” In Spanish, it’s a straightforward verb, its confusion arises when ordenar is used in the sense of “to order,” which is a function played by pedir too.
¿Puedes ordenar la comida?/¿Puedes pedir la comida?
Can you order the food?
Both questions in Spanish mean exactly the same. Hence the confusion among non-natives. Ordenar may convey a meaning more of a command, while pedir is a simple petition. You wouldn’t “order” for a favor, you “ask” for a favor.
The difference between ordenar and pedir is one of power, authority, and politeness. Ordenar implies that someone has authority over someone else to command them to do something. On the other hand, pedir is a polite way of asking someone to do that same thing voluntarily. However, in the sense of ordering food or ordering a product online, you can use ordenar and pedir indistinctly. No waiter will get offended because you command him to bring you your dinner.
Pedir Conjugation Set
Although the confusion with the verb ordenar comes with the translation “to order,” I’m staying with the most used translation of pedir which is “to ask,” to try to give you the most accurate image of this verb.
|yo pido||I ask|
|tú pides||you ask|
|él/ella pide||he/she asks|
|nosotros pedimos||we ask|
|ustedes piden||you ask|
|ellos/ellas piden||they ask|
In these examples, I’m including one case when pedir can be used as ordenar and understood as “to order,” and one with his more common use of “to ask.”
Ella siempre pide un capuccino.
She always orders a cappuccino.
¿Te pido un favor?
Can I ask you a favor?
|yo pedí||I asked|
|tú pediste||you asked|
|él/ella pidió||he/she asked|
|nosotros pedimos||we asked|
|ustedes pidieron||you asked|
|ellos/ellas pidieron||they asked|
Mis hermanos pidieron una habitación con vista al mar.
My brothers asked for a room with an ocean view.
¿Pediste mi café?
Did you order my coffee?
|yo pediré||I will ask|
|tú pedirás||you will ask|
|él/ella pedirá||he/she will ask|
|nosotros pediremos||we will ask|
|ustedes pedirán||you will ask|
|ellos/ellas pedirán||they will ask|
Erika pedirá al director que la cambie de grupo.
Erika will ask the principal to change her to a different group.
¿Ustedes pedirán pizza o pasta?
Will you order pizza or pasta?
Another source of confusion with these verbs comes from the two English meanings of the verb “to ask.” Here, I have to say, the origin of the problem is in the English language, not in Spanish (or at least that’s how it looks from the perspective of a native Spanish speaker). However, the confusion is the same for native English speakers learning Spanish nonetheless.
The issue here is that in Spanish, we use two verbs for what in English you use only one: “to ask.”
pedir – to ask (for something)
preguntar – to ask (a question)
However, the confusion is mainly formal, because although it’s true that the verb used is the same (to ask), in practice, it’s used in very different contexts. Pedir is used to ask for something, to request, to “make a petition.” So, when do you use preguntar? Well, preguntar always refers to questions.
Preguntar Conjugation Set
|yo pregunto||I ask|
|tú preguntas||you ask|
|él/ella pregunta||he/she asks|
|nosotros preguntamos||we ask|
|ustedes preguntan||you ask|
|ellos/ellas preguntan||they ask|
Mis amigos preguntan por ti.
My friends ask about you.
¿Preguntas a tu padre cuánto pagó por esta camisa?
Can you ask your father how much he paid for this shirt?
|yo pregunté||I asked|
|tú preguntaste||you asked|
|él/ella preguntó||he/she asked|
|nosotros preguntamos||we asked|
|ustedes preguntaron||you asked|
|ellos/ellas preguntaron||they asked|
Te pregunté que cómo te llamas.
I asked you what your name is.
¿Ustedes preguntaron por esta casa?
Did you ask about this house?
|yo preguntaré||I will ask|
|tú preguntarás||you will ask|
|él/ella preguntará||he/she will ask|
|nosotros preguntaremos||we will ask|
|ustedes preguntarán||you will ask|
|ellos/ellas preguntarán||they will ask|
La próxima vez que vaya a la escuela, preguntaré por el profesor Mario.
Next time I go to the school, I’ll ask about professor Mario.
Si no voy a casa, mis hermanas se preguntarán dónde estoy.
If I don’t go home, my sisters will ask themselves where I can be.
Advanced Spanish Verbs Quiz
Test your new advanced Spanish verbs skills with this free interactive quiz!
Fill in the blank:
1. Ayer _____ el nuevo libro de Harry Potter por internet.
2. Mañana _____ al profesor si puedo repetir el examen.
3. ¿ _____ el videojuego que me prometiste?
4. ¿_____ una pizza para cenar?
5. ¿_____ a tu mamá si encontró mi pulsera en tu casa?
6. El próximo año ______ un aumento de sueldo.
7. La semana pasada ellos _____ un sillón nuevo por internet.
8. ¿Te _____ una limonada por favor?
9. Mañana _____ a papá si quiere venir con nosotros
10. ¿Ya _____ la cuenta?
Ordenar, Pedir, Preguntar
Three verbs, three meanings, and some confusion between them. But now you know the difference between ordenar and pedir, you know when to use preguntar, and all you have to do is to practice these verbs.
Make sure to download our pedir vs preguntar worksheet pdf, and introduce these verbs into real-life conversations in order to normalize their use in your Spanish vocabulary.
Sign up for a free class to practice the Spanish verbs ordenar, pedir, preguntar, and use them while having lively conversations with one of our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. Ten years of experience and 24,000+ monthly active students back us up!
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