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Recently on vacation I wanted to ask a Chinese tourist if they would mind taking a photo of my wife and I - but I didn't know how, so just asked 你可以吗? (nǐ kěyǐ ma?) while pointing to my camera.

How should I ask this in future?

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+1 Good question... Is 可以 a verb? –  Alenanno Jul 5 '12 at 13:30
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I think it is a verb ... –  fefe Jul 5 '12 at 13:40
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Yes, technically a modal verb –  Cocowalla Jul 5 '12 at 17:19
    
This makes no sense to me actually. I expect an action after 可以. –  deutschZuid Jul 6 '12 at 2:52
    
Well, if I'd known what verb to use I would have used it. But I didn't, so I just said 你可以吗? :P –  Cocowalla Jul 6 '12 at 7:33
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1 Answer 1

There are many ways to ask this. Some examples:

  • 您能给我们俩照一张相吗?
    nín néng gĕi wǒ men liă zhào yì zhāng xiàng ma?
  • 您能帮我们拍个照吗?
    nín néng bāng wǒ men pāi ge zhào ma?
  • 您可以给我们照张相吗?
    nín kĕ yĭ gĕi wǒ men zhào zhāng xiàng ma?
  • 请问,您可以帮我们照张相吗?
    qĭng wèn, nín kĕ yĭ bāng wǒ men zhào zhāng xiàng ma?
  • 麻烦您给我们照张相
    má fan nín gĕi wǒ men zhào zhāng xiàng
  • 麻烦你,帮我们照张相,好吗?
    má fan nǐ, bāng wǒ men zhào zhāng xiàng,hǎo ma?

照张相 means to take a picture, so does 拍照(片)。 You can both use 能 and 可以. 帮(助) means to help. 我们俩 means the two of us. 给 is here a proposition.

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You can also invite them to do so (请) or ask if you can inconvenience/trouble (麻烦) them, too. I.e. (能)[请/麻烦][你/您] + preposition + noun phrase + 吗. –  Krazer Jul 5 '12 at 14:10
    
拍个照 is used much more often than 照张相 in my personal experience. 照张相 sounds a bit old fashioned, young people usually say 拍个照. Also, if you're starting a question with 可以, mostly you finish it with 吧? –  Hans Z Jul 12 '12 at 15:36
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