Learn Modal Verbs Permissions – how we use can, could and may to ask for permission

by | Jan 9, 2019 | English Tips

Marilyn RC

Marilyn RC

Community Contributor (Philippines)

    • Leadership strengths (Level 1)
    • Community Contributor

Learn how we use the modal verbs can, could and may to ask for permission in English, and also how we reply to permission requests.
Can

We use can ask for permission to do something.
Can I use your laptop?
Can i sit here?

Could

Could is more formal and polite than can.
Could i have this dance?
Could i sit here?

May

May is more formal and polite than could.
Students may travel free.
May I sit here?

Can

We use can give permission.
You can borrow my iPad.
You can sit here.

Could

We tend to use could as the past tense of can to talk about ability in the past.
You could eat out tonight. We could meet at the weekend.

May

May is the more formal and polite way than can.
You may take the day off.
You may be right

Can

We use can say that someone has permission to do something
Teachers can use the computers at anytime.
Kids can use our playground for free.

Could

We use could talk about less definite aspects of possibility or suggested options, either now or in the future.
Could you take a message, please? Could I have my bill, please?

May

May is a more formal and polite way of saying that someone has permission.
Students may watch the movie for free.
Your parents may use our car.

 

 

 

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