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    #1

    Can I take a message?

    Hi,

    Does the sentence "Can I take a message" mean "Can I help someone to relay a message to others"?

    If not, what does it mean?


    Thanks a lot

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    #2

    Re: Can I take a message?

    It means you are offering to write down a message for someone else. It implies you will deliver it to that person. It does not suggest that you will help someone else, other than the person to whom you are speaking, and the intended recipient.

    You should say "May I take a message?" rather than "Can I take a message?" I am sure you can.

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    #3

    Re: Can I take a message?

    Quote Originally Posted by jlinger View Post
    You should say "May I take a message?" rather than "Can I take a message?" I am sure you can.
    'Can I ...' is perfectly acceptable, in my opinion.

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    #4

    Re: Can I take a message?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    'Can I ...' is perfectly acceptable, in my opinion.
    Hi fivejedjon,

    IMO it is acceptable too, but the difference between using "may" or "can", even if subtle, does exist. And it is this minute point that gives me a pain in the _____ every time I try to clarify it to my students (because in Spanish there are NO modal verbs).

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    #5

    Re: Can I take a message?

    Quote Originally Posted by charliedeut View Post
    Hi fivejedjon,

    IMO it is acceptable too, but the difference between using "may" or "can", even if subtle, does exist. And it is this minute point that gives me a pain in the _____ every time I try to clarify it to my students (because in Spanish there are NO modal verbs).
    I don't think there is a difference, even a subtle one, for most speakers today (except that for most speakers may isn't even an option).

    Modern usage seem to suggest precisely this.

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    #6

    Re: Can I take a message?

    I'll defend the difference, which is not subtle at all, between may and can. One asks permission, the other verifies ability. They are not the same. "Can I speak English" and "May I speak English" are two entirely different questions.

    That said, I'll admit to getting all balled up with the Might I's and such.

    Beware of "modern usage," however, when it's just laziness. Words have distinct meanings. Use the right one, if you can. (not "if you may")

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    #7

    Re: Can I take a message?

    Quote Originally Posted by jlinger View Post
    I'll defend the difference, which is not subtle at all, between may and can. One asks permission, the other verifies ability. They are not the same. "Can I speak English" and "May I speak English" are two entirely different questions.
    'Can I speak English' with the meanining of 'Am I able to speak English?' is an unlikely question. I know the answer!

    Imagine that we are in a meeting about the teaching of German, for example, and the subject matter has been discussed in German thus far. One participant, whose active command of German is not very good, asks: "Can I speak English (, please)?' All present will understand this - Is it acceptable for me..., have I your permission to..., etc.

    In modern English, for most speakers, either can or may are used to request permission. Only can is used for ability. Context ensures that there is no ambiguity, except for the pedant.

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    #8

    Re: Can I take a message?

    Thank you ! I think that we can understand "can" as "ask for permission" or "ask for ability" depending on the context.
    "Can she speak English ?"
    and "May she speak English ?(she can speak English but she is facing a man that I don't know he can whether speak English or not and I asked his friend right next to him "May she ...", she is my friend and we are 4 ones standing together). Can we understand the first (Can she ...) as the second (May she ...) in that context ? I think if I ask "Can she...", the friend of the man will answer "Why do you ask me that ? She is your friend, isn't she ?"
    Please give me your comment !

    Thank you so much !

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    #9

    Re: Can I take a message?

    The situation you describe is somewhat unrealistic, crazygeek. Assuming that your friend is unwilling to ask the question herself, for some strange reason, and that for an equally strange reason you do not want to speak to the man's friend directly, your questions are more likely to be:

    Does your friend speak/understand English?
    Is it all right if we/my friend speak English with your friend?

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    #10

    Re: Can I take a message?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    The situation you describe is somewhat unrealistic, crazygeek. Assuming that your friend is unwilling to ask the question herself, for some strange reason, and that for an equally strange reason you do not want to speak to the man's friend directly, your questions are more likely to be:

    Does your friend speak/understand English?
    Is it all right if we/my friend speak/s English with your friend?
    :)
    Yes, I should ask the questions you have given, but I was trying to imagine out some situation to show that we can't use "can" instead of "may", haha but I'm failed for the unrealistic situation !
    Hope some other ones try to think out other situations posting in a new thread and continue discussing !
    Thank you !

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