https://www.duolingo.com/ivangimar1

the difference between 'MAY' and 'CAN'

hello guys! we are going to learn how to use this modal verbs in a correct way, it could be confusing for some of you. when I started to learn English I used to use 'CAN' for everything but now I know the difference between this modal verbs:

we use 'MAY' when we are asking for permission. for example: May I go to the bathroom? or mom, May I go out tonight?

and we use 'CAN' only when we are talking about being able to do something. for example: Can I play the guitar? or can I swim? in this case we are talking about capability, am I really able to play the guitar? or am I able to swim?

I hope it has been useful for you, remember if you have questions, be free to ask me. take care and have a nice day.

2 years ago

23 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Even native English speakers are taught this as children. However, many people do use can when they should use may. The response can be : "I don't know. Can you?"

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/QuadraticLingual

My response to that is: "Yes. Yes I can."

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ivangimar1

you can use 'CAN' for asking for permission but just in a informal situation.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ignatznkrazy
ignatznkrazy
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In the various places that I have lived in the U.S. (South, Midwest, and West), may is pretty rare. While it may be incorrect, can is used almost exclusively in place of may in the U.S., whether in formal or informal situations. I cannot imagine anyone saying "May I address this issue" at my work, for example.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wombatua
wombatua
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YMMV. May/might are very common in my experience in the US, Midatlantic to Ohio.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ignatznkrazy
ignatznkrazy
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Age may also be a factor--I am pretty much exclusively around people under 45. And I should have probably specified that I am talking only about asking permission. We still use may for possibility. ("I may have a beer with dinner.)

But it is entirely possible that people in the Mid-Atlantic states are politer than us Westerners.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wombatua
wombatua
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Age may well be - I'm generally around people over 40, and I don't have much experience with the west. Regardless, you'll get your meaning across just fine.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
Klgregonis
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Can is supplanting may for asking permission. The only reason it still exists is that teachers insisted on it in elementary school and still do. May is used extensively for possibility, and VERY formally or with tongue in cheek for asking permission (or in games like Mother May I), but not much in every day speech (at least in midwestern middle class America.) And think about it - if the person you're asking denies you permission, you do not have the ability to do the action at that time.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wombatua
wombatua
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Generally, can reflects ability; may reflects permission.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/teachinjos
teachinjos
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We have to remember that language is a living thing. Im of the older generation and from Britain. We used to be in big trouble, if we used 'may' and 'can' incorrectly, but today, as with so many grammar rules, you seldom hear 'may' any more. The same sort of thing is happening in German. How many times have I heard in Germany 'Kann ich...........' and the answer comes back 'Du kannst, aber du darfst nicht'. When I was at school, 'shall' was first person singular and plural for the future tense. Now it's gone completely out of the window and 'will' is used for all persons - shall being kept for the special form 'shall I open the window?' and special emphasis, as in "You shall go to the ball, Cinderella!" Ive even heard some Londoners putting an 's' on all verbs, i.e. I goes, you goes, we goes, they goes. To my ear it sounds appalling, but if enough people use it, it will become the norm. I think that is one of the beauties of language - the variants, the accents, the changes, the evolving forms. Thanks for listening.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
Larry_the_Zebra
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Is will really replacing shall in British English (BE)??? All the BE textbooks/exams for foreign learners still demand shall as 1st person singular and plural and I often hear English people saying things like 'Yes, I shall see to that right away' or "Shall I ring you up tomorrow?' or 'I shall be down the pub later.' Am I simply around the more prim and proper of BE speakers?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/teachinjos
teachinjos
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When I was learning to be a teacher of English for foreigners, we were told 'shall' is dead for the future tense. Your first example Larry could be called the emphatic 'shall', - the right away - showing that. Your second example isnt really 'shall' as a future tense and is only used in questions. It really means 'ought I' which in itself sounds a bit odd, although correct English. 'Ought I to phone you tomrrow?' Here you see quite clearly that 'ought' is present tense. Your third example, using 'down the pub' is very colloquial and would most likely be I'll rather than I shall. Perhaps it was wrong of me to say 'shall' has gone out of the window for the future. I will re-word that part and say that 'shall' is seldom heard today for the future and then only by a certain class of people.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
Larry_the_Zebra
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Thank you for the explanation! I'm a native-speaker EFL teacher myself, but not from the Isles. So, virtually ALL uses of 'shall' sound totally foreign to me, and I have only the scant rules on BE given in the textbooks to go on. Shall as an emphatic is utterly unknown in AE and I'm not sure we'd recognize it as such -- but I'll be on the lookout for it now. Personally, I'd say (and teach): "I'll do that right away", "Can/May/Do you want me call you tomorrow?" and "I'll be in the bar later'. Also in dem Sinne, habe ich es genau so schwer wie alle Englischlernende. Danke nochmals für die Auslegung!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Eussy

thanks, excellent !

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
Larry_the_Zebra
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Why have you posted this on the forum for English speakers learning Spanish? Wouldn't this be better on the English for Spanish speakers forum with the rest of your posts? Sorry, but don't you think it's a little insulting 'teaching' native speakers something as basic as this on the assumption that you know all about it and they don't?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GermanOfficial

May = Mayo

Can = Lata

As is "You can eat that can of beans, but it expired in may and may give you a stomachache"

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
Larry_the_Zebra
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That's really good! Thanks for sharing!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Eussy

Oh my God!! it was good !

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/demc22

thanks for your note, we appreciate

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/living4JesusKB

that's funny my dad used to remind me that alllllll the time.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dbm17
dbm17
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wow! good tip!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Eussy

Thanks Ivanki, it was excellent explanation. I will take notes about this. you are nice.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RaeannaFre

:)

2 years ago
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