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  1. #1
    Ju is offline Senior Member
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    Default may, could, can, would, ...

    My assumption as follow in the bracket as follow
    __________________________________________________ ________


    1. May I have a cup of coffee? (the most polite way among three)

    2. Could I have a cup of coffee? (the 2nd polite way among three)

    3. Can I have a cup of coffee? (the least polite way among three)

    __________________________________________________ _____

    1. Would you pass me a pen? (the most polite way among four)

    2. Could you pass me a pen? (the second polite way among four)

    3. Will you pass me a pen? (the third polite way among four)

    4. Can you pass me a pen? (the least polite way among four)

    __________________________________________________ ____

    ju

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: may, could, can, would, ...

    It's OK as a pattern, though I am not sure that it is a rigid progression through forms of politeness; for instance, I don't think there's a situation where May I have... is the only acceptable form and could would be unacceptable.

  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: may, could, can, would, ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    It's OK as a pattern, though I am not sure that it is a rigid progression through forms of politeness; for instance, I don't think there's a situation where May I have... is the only acceptable form and could would be unacceptable.
    I agree.

    And, despite what some teachers still insist, 'can I have ...', while more direct than 'could I have', is neither incorrect nor impolite. For many native speakers, 'may I have ...' is unnatural and stuffy.

  4. #4
    freezeframe is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: may, could, can, would, ...

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I agree.

    And, despite what some teachers still insist, 'can I have ...', while more direct than 'could I have', is neither incorrect nor impolite. For many native speakers, 'may I have ...' is unnatural and stuffy.
    I don't know how it is across the pond, but here "can I have..." is perfectly natural. "May I have..." is for people who're trying to prove something.

  5. #5
    Ju is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: may, could, can, would, ...

    Quote Originally Posted by freezeframe View Post
    I don't know how it is across the pond, but here "can I have..." is perfectly natural. "May I have..." is for people who're trying to prove something.
    1. What does it mean of how it is across the pond?

    2. I don't understand what do you mean by saying "May I have..." is for people who're trying to prove something?


    ju

  6. #6
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: may, could, can, would, ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ju View Post
    1. What does it mean of how it is across the pond? It means 'on the other side of the Atlantic'; it is jokingly referring to the ocean as a pond.

    2. I don't understand what do you mean by saying "May I have..." is for people who're trying to prove something? Not many people today use 'May I have ...' naturally. freezeframe is suggesting that some of those who do use it do so because they are trying to give the mpression that they are well educated, and know how to speak 'good English'.
    5

  7. #7
    Ju is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: may, could, can, would, ...

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    5
    When I was working for customer service, I was trained that we, as service providers , must use May I in all sorts communication with the customer.

    As we answered for the request from customers, we must say certainly. They didn't accept us to say sure as it's too casual.

    ju

  8. #8
    freezeframe is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: may, could, can, would, ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ju View Post
    When I was working for customer service, I was trained that we, as service providers , must use May I in all sorts communication with the customer.

    As we answered for the request from customers, we must say certainly. They didn't accept us to say sure as it's too casual.

    ju
    If you work in customer service, you have to do whatever the bosses tell you to do. That's its own special language.

    What words are used and what is appropriate or inappropriate depends on the context of where we are, to whom are we speaking, what is the purpose of our statements, etc.

  9. #9
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    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: may, could, can, would, ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ju View Post
    When I was working for customer service, I was trained that we, as service providers , must use May I in all sorts communication with the customer.
    Customer service training in Britain has resulted in telephone calls being answered with such words as "Sudokertsy Client Foboff Division, Tracey speaking. How may I help you?" The words in bold are supposed to be more positive than the traditional "Can I help you?", so disliked by pedants. To many of us, however, these rote-learned words come across as completely artificial. We know that the speaker had never naturally used such words before taking up this line of work.

  10. #10
    sunsunmoon is offline Member
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    Default Re: may, could, can, would, ...

    Look here to learn how to use the modal verbs "may," "might," "can," "could," and "ought."

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