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  1. hhdirectr

    Question family conflict over the phrase " may you help me"

    Please help us solve a family challange and disagreement. My sister insists on telling my neice and granddaughter ages 4 that they must say " may you get me a drink of water or May you push me on the swing instead of more commly heard phrases like Auntie, could you plese push me on the swing or May I please have a drink of water. She uses sayings like May asks and can or will signifies soemthing else. like ability.. Could you please clarify this for our family as we argue alot about this when together. May you swing me sound strange tomost of us.

    antioch california

    • Join Date: Nov 2005
    • Posts: 21

    Re: family conflict over the phrase " may you help me"


    as far as I know about Modal verbs, we use Can/Could/May/Mighit to give permission or to ask for permission. The equivalent expression is to be allowed to .We use Can/Could to express what a person is able to do.

    Can/Could/May/Might are also used to express probability (it's getting very dark, It may rain or It can rain this afternoon)

    Hope I would help you something.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 57,879

    Re: family conflict over the phrase " may you help me"

    Some people claim that 'can' shouldn't be used for permission, but in reality it is very common indeed, so I can see nothing wrong with it at all.

    • Join Date: Jun 2009
    • Posts: 1

    Re: family conflict over the phrase " may you help me"

    Hello Cheri,

    I'm in training to teach ESL, and questions like yours help me analyze my own language.
    You have actually captured, in your examples, the correct usage for 'may' when requesting something in English. We typically use 'may' when 'I' is the subject of the sentence, often asking permission: "May I help you?" "May I use the swing?" When asking someone for help, we use "Will you please...?" "Would you please...?"

    Hope that helps!

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