Poll: Is it more polite to use 'may' rather than 'can' for permission?

Is it more polite to use 'may' rather than 'can' for permission?


Statistics Poll Stats

This Poll:

  • Votes: 1,189
  • Comments: 13
  • Added: August 2003



It is only to those people who use it in that way. Those who only use 'can' would say it was not.


TDOL, I'm not sure I agree about that.


Red, it is a question not an opinion. However, I'd say it's more formal rather than more polite. Does that make it better to you?


Using may to ask for permission is the more proper way. Using can is accepted though, we have Americanized English so much that it works.


"Can" denotes the ability to do something. "May", however, expresses permission to do something. For example: You may have the ability to accomplish a task, but have not received the authorization to do so.


i agree with ya nevar..absolutly right


'Can' is perfectly OK for permission and it is wrong to say that it only denotes ability.


Can is used to show ability, possibility, and permission. The fact that everyone uses it in that way regularly should emphasize its correct usage in that manner.


i think you should use may when you are asking for something and also using proper lang.


can is used for showing you can do it but may is showing permission to do it it's a no brainer

Jackie Roberts

A lot of people say, "Can I use the restroom." The right way is to say, "May I use the restroom." Can really means ability. I think it's best to use "May" for permission. Can is just fine in casual situations.

Richard W. King

I think the last time I heard "may" in a movie was 1962's The Music Man, so I guess mother's lost and the children won.


Useless question, it's to different meanings. Just because one physically 'can', doesn't mean that one 'may'.' May' is permission, 'can' is a question about ability.

Browse our language polls:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25