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    #1

    An interesting use of the word "may"

    I know a young lady who uses the word "may" when asking someone else to do a favor. For instance, "May you please close the door." I have tried to find examples of this use of may in reputable books but have not. Does anyone out there know of this as an acceptable use of "may"?

  1. engee30's Avatar
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    #2

    Smile Re: An interesting use of the word "may"

    Quote Originally Posted by karenlynnelandry View Post
    I know a young lady who uses the word "may" when asking someone else to do a favor. For instance, "May you please close the door." I have tried to find examples of this use of may in reputable books but have not. Does anyone out there know of this as an acceptable use of "may"?
    Well, since children often use may when speaking to adults, asking permission, they sometimes mistakenly apply the same verb when asking someone to do something, which is wrong in terms of grammar. In such a case, the more appropriate verb would be could, or would.

  2. opa6x57's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: An interesting use of the word "may"

    I'm not a teacher...

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    Well, since children often use may when speaking to adults, asking permission, they sometimes mistakenly apply the same verb when asking someone to do something, which is wrong in terms of grammar. In such a case, the more appropriate verb would be could, or would.
    Absolutely.

    My grandchildren - when they are trying get a favor from their grandpa (me), they will often ask, "Opa, may you please put new batteries in this toy?"

    I hope they grow out of it.

  3. #4

    Re: An interesting use of the word "may"

    I'm completely agree with engee30.

    when someone asks for a permission; " May I open the door? " or " can / could I ....? "

    when someone asks someone for a favor; " would you open the door, please?" or " can / could you ..... ?"

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    #5

    Re: An interesting use of the word "may"

    Quote Originally Posted by karenlynnelandry View Post
    I know a young lady who uses the word "may" when asking someone else to do a favor. For instance, "May you please close the door." I have tried to find examples of this use of may in reputable books but have not. Does anyone out there know of this as an acceptable use of "may"?
    No, but we've had two Californians in the last few months who have asked about this in their children. They must be getting it from somewhere, unless such a modal verb makes sense in that context in Universal Grammar. How old is the young lady is question?

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    #6

    Re: An interesting use of the word "may"

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    No, but we've had two Californians in the last few months who have asked about this in their children. They must be getting it from somewhere, unless such a modal verb makes sense in that context in Universal Grammar. How old is the young lady is question?
    With Californians one might suspect the influence of Spanish. But my son used to do it, with no trace of a Hispanic background, when he was very young (about 3, I'd guess - but I can't be certain, as it was more than 20 years ago).

    b

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    #7

    Re: An interesting use of the word "may"

    I'm not a teacher...

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    No, but we've had two Californians in the last few months who have asked about this in their children. They must be getting it from somewhere, unless such a modal verb makes sense in that context in Universal Grammar. How old is the young lady is question?

    Well - in my grandchildren's case - I can tell you the 'origin' of it.

    First, keep in mind that children often have limited vocabulary. 'Could/would' isn't common in their vocabulary until they are 8-10 or older.

    "Can" and "may" are usually common vocabulary for younger children. However, it is improper to say, "Can I go outside?" When what you mean is, "May I go outside?"
    "Can I" implies you are asking me if you have the ability to do something.
    Whereas "May I" implies you are asking for permission to do something.

    As a result of this divergent meaning, I (and other adults in the household) will often correct the mis-use of the word 'can I' and get the child to rephrase the question using 'may I'.

    Following this correction - and with the limited vocabulary - it is almost expected that children would use 'may' rather than 'can' ... and since they don't really understand 'could/would', yet - it follows that they might use 'may' for those words, too.

    At least that's my opinion.

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    #8

    Re: An interesting use of the word "may"

    Quote Originally Posted by opa6x57 View Post
    At least that's my opinion.
    Well, that's a valid hypothesis.
    The OP will be able to confirm whether the child is growing up in an environment where "can" is corrected to "may" in some situations.


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    #9

    Re: An interesting use of the word "may"

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    No, but we've had two Californians in the last few months who have asked about this in their children. They must be getting it from somewhere, unless such a modal verb makes sense in that context in Universal Grammar. How old is the young lady is question?
    The young lady in question is 16 years old. She has been home schooled most of her experience.

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    #10

    Re: An interesting use of the word "may"

    Ah. Like the others, I had assumed she was 3 or 4 years old and hadn't learned which sentences fit the "may" pattern and which fit the "can."

    Either this is highly regionalized and it's common where she lives, or it was simply something that was neglected in her education.

    If she simply feels that "may" is the only polite way to ask for something, then she needs to revise. "May I close the door?" and do it herself instead of asking someone else to do it.

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