E-Mail 'Real Grammar Quiz, Question 9: should I say "Can I..." or "May I ..."?' To A Friend

Email a copy of 'Real Grammar Quiz, Question 9: should I say "Can I..." or "May I ..."?' to a friend

* Required Field

Separate multiple entries with a comma. Maximum 5 entries.

Separate multiple entries with a comma. Maximum 5 entries.

E-Mail Image Verification

Loading ... Loading ...


  • A look at the Google N-Gram Viewer shows an interesting history. From the mid-1940 through1960, there was a sudden rise and sustained usage of “May I” Then it started dropping pretty sharply until a rapid rise about 15 years ago.. In the mid-1970s, “Can I” started a mercurial rise.that seems to be continuing..

  • There is a traditional rule that you should use “may” when asking for (or giving) permission to do something, while “can” is reserved for talking about someone’s ability or capacity to do something – as in Can you play the guitar? This is what I learned at school, and I dare say many of our readers were taught this “rule” too.”
    The reason for not allowing these two distinctive words to be devalued by frequent incorrect usage is beautifully encapsulated in the paragraph above. The two very different meanings are absolutely crystal clear. They are unmistakable. The logic and purpose is impeccable and faultless. While some ‘rules’ might be considered arbitrary, this one is so manifestly useful that it SHOULD be written in stone. Abandoning it to mob rule would be unforgivable. There is inarguably good reason to maintain this rule and absolutely nothing to justify its abandonment.

  • Sir, greetings of the day. ‘Can I post my comment, please?’
    ‘Yes, you can, provided you are thorough in the subject’.
    ‘May I post my comment,please?’
    ‘Of course, this space is meant for doing so’.
    I think this is how it goes. But the mob rule has become the (dis)order of the day in using the language. Words like ‘anyway’ being used in the plural (anyways!) or pronouncing ‘write’ as ‘vrite’, have become very common; but it is very hard to see the language getting degraded. Just to give the English language a casual tone, this ‘death’ of syntax, pronunciation, distortion,etc is condemnable, and needs a censure outright. Let’s preserve the order of English language.
    Thank you.