Results 1 to 7 of 7
  1. #1
    Steven Mai is offline Newbie
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • Vietnam
      • Current Location:
      • Vietnam
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Posts
    24
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default may / can; more than two verbs in a sentence.

    First off, I hope it is not annoying to ask more than one question in a thread.

    1. In my mother tongue, these two words are almost exchangeable, so the dictionary gives out the same result. And I had been only using "can" until a message popped out from my computer, it said: You may eject the device now.
    I heard that "may" is used in giving permission context, and "can"is used in describing ability context. So is this sentence completely incorrect for using "can"? And I should use "may"?
    Walkers can cross the road when the traffic light is green.

    2. My teacher told me to use "to" when the sentence contains two verbs, but what if there are more than two verbs? Like "I decided to go to the food stand to buy something to eat?" I find it has too many "to", Is that correct?
    Many thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    22,253
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: may / can; more than two verbs in a sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Mai View Post
    First off, I hope it is not annoying to ask more than one question in a thread.

    1. In my mother tongue, these two words are almost exchangeable, so the dictionary gives out the same result. And I had been only using "can" until a message popped out from my computer, it said: You may eject the device now.
    I heard that "may" is used in giving permission context, and "can"is used in describing ability context. So is this sentence completely incorrect for using "can"? And I should use "may"?
    Walkers can cross the road when the traffic light is green.

    2. My teacher told me to use "to" when the sentence contains two verbs, but what if there are more than two verbs? Like "I decided to go to the food stand to buy something to eat?" I find it has too many "to", Is that correct? No, it's fine. It would be incorrect without them.
    Many thanks in advance.
    "Walkers can cross the road when the traffic light is green."
    Purists would say that only "may" is correct here, but "can" is fine in modern English.

  3. #3
    markteacher is offline Newbie
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • South Korea
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    13
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: may / can; more than two verbs in a sentence.

    For number 1, may and can originally had different uses, and some grammar books will tell you that they are different.

    However, most native speakers use "can" for both purposes.

    "May" is used to ask permission in a more formal way. In other cases, "may" often means "maybe" or "might".

    Examples:
    1. Can I go to the store? - Simple asking of permission
    2. May I go to the store? - A more formal way of asking permission
    3. He can go home. - He is able to go home.
    4. He may go home. - He MIGHT go home.

    My suggestion is to just stick with "can", unless you want to ask something formally or mean "maybe" or "might".

    For number 2, the sentence is correct. You can use multiple verbs like that.

    Hope this helps

    - Mark

  4. #4
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    13,984
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: may / can; more than two verbs in a sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Mai View Post
    First off, I hope it is not annoying to ask more than one question in a thread.
    It is annoying. Please ask unrelated questions in separate threads.

    You'll get quicker answers that way as many people could answer one of the questions but may not have the time nor knowledge to answer more.

    Additionally, when different people choose to answer different questions the thread becomes cluttered and confusing.

    Rover

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Philippines
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    42,543
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: may / can; more than two verbs in a sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Mai View Post
    And I had been only using "can" until a message popped out from my computer, it said: You may eject the device now
    Can strikes me as better there.

  6. #6
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    15,473
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: may / can; more than two verbs in a sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Can strikes me as better there.

    The person who wrote this message - it being Microsoft code - was probably brought up on Strunk & White. Probably his English teacher, Mrs Thistlebottom, would have said 'Of course you can remove, it's only a memory stick, and a USB port's friction isn't that hard to overcome!' (except that Mrs T probably wouldn't have used an exclamation mark there). The point is that Windows gives the user permission to remove it (and implies that terrible things will happen if you just do it without asking first).

    In a life spent working with these people, I'm afraid that I've noticed a strong correlation between software engineering and grammar tyranny.

    b

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Philippines
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    42,543
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: may / can; more than two verbs in a sentence.

    I prefer machines that indicate something is possible, rather than ones that grant me permission.

Similar Threads

  1. 3 verbs in a sentence
    By crazyaboutenglish in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 07-Oct-2011, 18:25
  2. [Grammar] using verbs in a sentence
    By swimdude006 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 18-Jan-2011, 21:13
  3. Sentence with two verbs
    By gold_r in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 10-Nov-2009, 00:26
  4. Two verbs in sentence
    By 123hahah in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 02-Mar-2008, 03:48
  5. two verbs in a sentence?
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 03-Feb-2008, 07:14

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Hotchalk