No. That is not bad English- that is TERRIBLE English... And NOT at all your fault. How this French phrase translates to that English sentence is a mystery that rivals the origins of the Pyramids. Wth... Sitesurf? You're up to bat, Sir.. can you please explain this to me? (that translation from those words).
The preposition "à" is used to introduce whom you are asking (indirect object):
- Je demande un livre à mon frère = I ask my brother for a book.
If you ask somebody to do something, you will use the preposition "de + infinitive"; in this case, the whole clause is the direct object of "demander":
- Je demande à mon frère de me passer un livre = I ask my brother to pass me a book.
Well, " à " has many uses. Here's a series of pages regarding it: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/preposition_a.htm
It is a valid statement in English but it is not a correct translation of the assigned words. In the statement provided the listener/reader knows perfectly well who is asking for the book because it reads tu demandes. This is translated as you ask.
Your statement ask without the pronoun leaves open the possibility that you are saying I ask for the book. You leave it up to the reader/listener to try to figure out your meaning. The French sentence does not do that.
That is not how à is being used in this sentence.
Demander à = to ask (someone); Tu demandes à ton frère = You ask your brother.
Demander also means to ask for; demandes un livre = ask for a book.
If you put it all together, it means "You ask your brother for a book".
Well... we're in the same shoes, and that's why I'm trying to find the answer. I appreciate all your help but at the end of the day, I'd really like to know what a native speaker - like Sitesurf - would say about the whole thing... No offense :-) Where are you in the tree, by the way?