spaceCenter for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)


In this module, you will learn the ins and outs of requesting in Spanish.

What is a request?

A request is a communicative act in which one person asks another to take some sort of action (e.g., make an appointment, give information, or share an object). In this situation, the action normally benefits the speaker directly and does not provide a benefit to the hearer. Requests can be very big or very small, requiring the use of different pragmatic strategies. It is important to be able to make requests since they are one of the most common communicative acts found in interaction.

A Glance at Different Requests

In the following examples, you will see some examples of requests in Spanish. As you play them, pay special attention to the request strategies being used by each of the speakers. For example, you might hear a direct request (e.g., Pásame el libro, por favor.). Write down as many different request strategies as you can find.

Example 1: Un libro prestado
Hebert (left) and Evelyn (right) are close friends and classmates. Hebert, a student from Mexico, asks to borrow a book from Evelyn, a student from the Dominican Republic.

Example 2: El coche
Carlos (left) and Nelly (right) are very close friends from Peru. Nelly asks Carlos to borrow his car to go out of town.


Example 3: El libro y la devolución
Iker (standing) and Gemma (sitting) are classmates at a university in Northern Spain. Iker asks Gemma to borrow a book. Gemma also asks Iker to return it.

After you have watched each of the conversations above and taken notes on the request strategies, compare your notes with the written transcript of each conversation. In each transcript, the primary request strategies are color coded.

What types of modifications are made to requests?

As you can see from the examples above, many strategies are used to make requests. Since there is usually little benefit to the person granting the request, the person asking for something uses various strategies to minimize the imposition of the request. In other words, speakers use language to express an understanding that there is some action required from the other person. This is done in a many different ways. For example:

(1) The speaker can make the request seem smaller than it really is.

In Spanish, this is very often done with the use of the diminutive. For example, ¿Me haces un favorcito? o ¿Tienes un minutito para ayudarme?

(2) The speaker might make the request seem bigger than it really is.

For example, one might say Tengo que pedirte un favor grandísimo.

(3) The speaker might use mitigators to soften the request.

Mitigators are language strategies which lessen the obligation of the person to actually grant the request. For example, one could say ¿Me podría pasar la sal? instead of Pásame la sal. The use of the conditional allows the person to decide to pass the salt and is a way of expressing politeness in Spanish.

Can you think of some other ways you might minimize the imposition of a request?

We will explore these strategies in more detail throughout the module.

What will you learn about requests in this module?

In this module, we will examine various pragmatic strategies you can use in Spanish to request in an appropriate manner.

At the end of this module, you will know how to:

  1. Identify different types of requests within context.
  2. Make requests using a variety of pragmatic strategies (sociocultural and language).
  3. Understand important social factors to consider when making requests.
  4. Perceive differences among requests in different varieties of Spanish.


For technical help, you may visit our instructional guide for using the website by clicking here.

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414 | Contact CARLA