Translation:Can I get a menu?
Um, I put "may I have the menu please?" and it corrected me with "can I have the menu please?" Runs counter to the annoying correction I got from every teacher from the time I was in kindergarten on, whenever I'd ask for something with "can..."
"I don't know, can you?"
Sounds like this needs some review from a native English speaker...?
You should have been annoyed by those "corrections" because that's not how the words are used in English. If you ask for a menu, you are not asking for permission, nor are you asking whether you have the ability to have a menu. You are requesting something that you have a reasonable expectation of getting, probably doesn't require permission (you could have walked over and gotten one, perhaps) and you would like to have.
You could have asked your teachers to check the dictionary, and they would have seen multiple definitions and examples of "can" being used for requests. Likewise, "may" can be used strictly for politeness. If your teacher walks up to your desk and says "may I have your paper?" it's because "give me that paper" might seem rude, but the teacher probably has the right to get the paper and isn't really asking for permission.
If you are in a doctor's office and you want to know if the exam is over or whether the doctor needs to do something else, you can say "can I go now?" It should be obvious that you have the ability to leave and don't need the doctor's permission to leave, so the "rules" you were taught wouldn't be relevant even if they represented proper usage. "May I go" implies that the doctor has the right to keep you there, and could let you leave as a favor.
Those are two different sentences with two different connotations, though. It's highly likely that Japanese, as with English, has two separate ways saying this. "Can I have/get a menu?" is perfectly correct English; it's an informal way of requesting a menu. "May I have a menu?" is a different sentence, as it is a more formal way of requesting a menu.
I suppose my point is that just because it is informal, does not make it wrong or nonexistent. Hope this review by a native speaker clarifies things!
"Can I" means "do I have the ability to" do something. "May I" means "do I have your permission to" do something. A lot of U.S. native English speakers use "can" when they actually mean "may" (myself included at times), especially in casual conversation or with friends. It seems both words should at least be used correctly in business or where professional communication is expected.
Actually, in English "can" has multiple meanings - both permission and ability.
This particle is used to mark the direct object of the sentence. The direct object = noun which "receives" action mentioned in the same sentence. In "メニューをください" speaker asks for the menu, so the menu is the noun which receives the action of being asked for. Using "を" in this case is a grammatical rule. But even if you try to use "は" or "が" here you'll get other, strange meaning. "メニューはください" would be sth like ”Speaking about menues, i would like one". I am just a beginner to Japanese, but this sounds strange. "メニューがください" means that menu is performing the action of asking, as the "が" particle marks the subject of a sentence (the subject is who or what does the verb). This is how I understand these grammar elements. Someone correct me if I am wrong. --- More on "を": http://www.punipunijapan.com/grammar-lesson-7-particle-%E3%82%92-o/
Definitely should accept the definite article ("the") as well. No pun intended.
(Per the "can" vs "may" issue, it did suggest "May I please have a menu?" as a valid answer for me. Possibly it's been updated, or possibly it recognizes each word as valid in some contexts but not others.)
I really intensely dislike the American-ness of this course. If I say "can I get a menu" it sounds like I'm asking permission to get up and go get one for myself. If you are asking someone to hand you something, why would you ask if you can go "get" it? I wish they'd use proper English in this thing! Exasperating!
Proper English is a matter of opinion. Languages are living, breathing things, constantly changing, evolving. And just because American English has evolved in a different direction than British English has does not make it any more or less correct; it just makes it different. Are Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese "incorrect" because they are no longer Latin? (I'm feeling like a bit of a broken record here. I just had this discussion re: Mexican Spanish vs. Spanish Spanish.)
I've been to many restaurants where the menus were pre-set at the table and there weren't enough for everyone, or with a large group of people we'll be seated before everyone has arrived but only the amount of current people there will be handed a menu so the late person doesn't get one. I've also gone to new restaurants and asked to look at the menu to decide before committing if I actually wanted to eat there. And instances where you may want dessert or coffee or something after your meal and want your menu back to look at the options.
I'd say it's quite practical.
Most likely the people who make these Japanese lessons are native Japanese speakers with English as a second language. So you can't really blame them for putting "Can I get a menu?" instead of "May I have a menu, please?" since their understanding of English is based on how they have heard the language spoken and most English speakers don't speak "proper" English.