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"?
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 ..... ?"
I'm not a teacher...
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.
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.