Grammar Tips & Articles »

Can vs. May

This Grammar.com article is about Can vs. May — enjoy your reading!


1:17 min read
2,401 Views
  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
Font size:

Can vs. May: Navigating Permission and Possibility

Understanding the differences between "can" and "may" involves navigating nuances in expressing permission and possibility. This article aims to clarify the distinctions between "can" and "may," shedding light on their meanings, applications, and appropriate usage in various contexts.

Correct Usage:

Can:

"Can" is a modal verb used to indicate the ability or capability to do something. It expresses physical or mental capacity and is often used in informal contexts.

May:

"May" is a modal verb used to indicate permission or possibility. It is employed to seek or grant permission in a more formal context or to express the likelihood or chance of something happening.

Meanings and Applications:

Can:

Use "can" when expressing the ability or capacity to perform a specific action. It focuses on one's physical or mental capability to accomplish something.

May:

Use "may" when seeking or granting permission, or when expressing the likelihood or possibility of a particular event occurring. It is more formal and often used in polite or official settings.

Can vs. May

Examples:

Correct: She can speak three languages fluently.

Correct: May I borrow your pen for a moment?

Contextual Considerations:

Consider the context and the nature of the statement when choosing between "can" and "may." If discussing ability or capacity, use "can." If seeking permission or expressing likelihood, use "may."

Conclusion:

Navigating the distinctions between "can" and "may" allows for precise communication in different contexts. Whether expressing one's capability or requesting permission, understanding the specific meanings of these modal verbs enhances clarity and appropriateness in language use.

Rate this article:

Have a discussion about this article with the community:

0 Comments

    Citation

    Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography:

    Style:MLAChicagoAPA

    "Can vs. May." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 18 Jun 2024. <https://www.grammar.com/can_vs._may>.

    Free, no signup required:

    Add to Chrome

    Check your text and writing for style, spelling and grammar problems everywhere on the web!

    Free, no signup required:

    Add to Firefox

    Check your text and writing for style, spelling and grammar problems everywhere on the web!

    Browse Grammar.com

    Free Writing Tool:

    Instant
    Grammar Checker

    Improve your grammar, vocabulary, and writing -- and it's FREE!


    Quiz

    Are you a grammar master?

    »
    Identify the sentence with correct use of reported speech:
    A He said, "I am going to the store."
    B She said, "I will come tomorrow."
    C I say, "I can do it."
    D They said that they had finished their homework.

    Improve your writing now:

    Download Grammar eBooks

    It’s now more important than ever to develop a powerful writing style. After all, most communication takes place in reports, emails, and instant messages.