In Dune, the Simplified Chinese edition translates the following sentence from chapter 3:

She asks me to tell her about the waters.



Here "ask" is translated as "让", but I always thought "让" is "let" or "allow" or "permit". In the context "she" is not at a superior position to "me", but instead they are at the same level of position (and are like lovers).

Can "让" be translated as "ask"? I personally feel "请" is more accurate.

  • 1
    The simple answer is "yes", and IMO, the translator's choice is better without knowing the full context. 请 is fine, but it implies there exists a distance between the two people in view of personal relationship (so must be treated gentle and polite), while 让 does not have such implication, you can 让 anybody to do something for you, it is neutral.
    – r13
    Oct 3, 2021 at 15:56
  • A dictionary definition of 让 includes "to invite", besides the more common one of "to let / allow" It could therefore be an alternative to 请, 叫, etc. As to which is more appropriate, accurate, would depend on literary, contextual circumstances of the passage in question. In the present case, the translator chose 让, and that is his / her prerogative. As a translator surely he or she would be aware of other alternatives, unless it is a typo error, which in the present case, I submit, is not. Whether one agrees or not is a matter of personal preference, not semantic accuracy. Oct 4, 2021 at 3:26

5 Answers 5


让 is accurate in this case. 请 sounds too polite for interpreting 'ask'. Colloquially, 叫 is also suitable. E.g. 她叫我给她讲水的故事.

So, in normal and casual speech, we can always say 我让某人做某事 to mean "I ask someone to do something" in English.

  • To you, does 让 give a hierarchical implication? That A is the boss of B?
    – lulalala
    Oct 3, 2021 at 8:52
  • 1
    @lulalala Not really. A and B can be the same level(they may be friends). E.g. 我让我的朋友帮个忙. I ask my friend for help.
    – dan
    Oct 3, 2021 at 11:22
  • @dan Sure. But would you 讓 your father or boss do something, e.g. 我讓我爹幫個忙 or 我讓我的老闆幫個忙?
    – joehua
    Oct 4, 2021 at 1:03
  • @joehua OP said "they are at the same level of position (and are like lovers)". So, it's ok to say 让 in that case. E.g.她让男朋友给她讲水的故事
    – dan
    Oct 4, 2021 at 1:24
  • Since your answer is the most complete, I've added my finding onto your answer. Do you think that's acceptable? Thanks!
    – lulalala
    Oct 4, 2021 at 12:49

You are right. 讓 is let. When A 讓 B do something, it often implies that the position of A is above B. I'd never say 我讓老闆做..... In the case you cite above, I think 要 or 要求 is a better translation.

  • May I assume you are from Taiwan (I am)? I think our understanding of the word is different to those of Mainland China. See the discussion: facebook.com/groups/fanyi/…
    – lulalala
    Oct 3, 2021 at 13:40
  • @lulalala Yes. Your assumption is correct. Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, I have no access to facebook. It's been blocked.
    – joehua
    Oct 3, 2021 at 14:19

That's an older usage. Taiwanese Chinese no longer uses it, but it is still in heavy use in Simplified Chinese.


Quote:- "I personally feel "请" is more accurate"

Both 请 & 让 in a certain context have the meaning of "to invite"

So, in the context of the sentence in question, it becomes "She invites me to tell her about the waters"

A bit stilted, but not inaccurate.


让 means "to have somebody [do something]" e.g. He had me wash his dog.

她让我给她讲水的故事 = "She had me tell her about the waters."

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