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Thread: Proper words

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    Proper words

    When is it appropriate to use "can" in a sentence? Is it always better to use "may?"

    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 19,398

    Re: Proper words

    They have different meanings. Can should be used to express ability or capability (Can he move? = is he physically able to move?; May implies permissibility or possibility (May he move? = is he allowed to move?).

    "May I go out?" = Is it permissible to go out
    "We may want you to come to dinner" = There is a possibility that we want to join us.

    "Can I go out?" = Will I be able to go out - or will something prevent me
    "We can have you to dinner on Saturday" = There is nothing preventing us having you for a meal on Saturday.

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