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You are here: Level A1 > Can May - permissions

                                        Asking for permission: Can & May



Can (for present and future)

Can I go home early today, please?              Yes, you can/No, you can't.

Can we visit you on Saturday, please?          Yes, you can/No, you can't.

I can borrow my dad's car when I want.

I can't go out tonight, my mum said no.

He can visit his real father any time he wants.

She can play computer games every evening.

We can call our boss when we need to.

They can go to the U.S.A. because they have got the visa but they can't stay there for more than 3 months.


Could or 'To be allowed to' (for the past)

Asking with 'Could' is more polite than 'Can' .

Could I leave early today, please?               Yes, you could/No, you couldn't.

Could you lend me your car, please?              Yes, I could/No, I could not.

I could (was allowed to) drive a lorry before the accident.

I couldn't (wasn't allowed to) fly a plane by myself until I passed the test.

He couldn't come yesterday because his wife said 'No!'.

She couldn't fly because her visa didn't come on time.

We were allowed to proceed through the customs after the police checked our bags.

They weren't allowed to call their lawyer.




                       May (for present and future)


May I go out tonight, please?                              Yes, you may/No, you may not.

May Tom visit me at the weekend, please?           Yes, he may/No, he may not.

I may finish work today when I complete this chart my boss said.

'You may call your lawyer', said a policeman.

He may go out camping with us this weekend.

She may not use her mobile (phone) for one week.

'May' is more polite than 'Could' . Use it when asking your boss or any other authority!


In a normal conversation, 'Can' and 'May' make no difference in meaning so do not worry about it too much.

BUT don't forget to say 'please' !!!

You can say: ' I'm allowed to....' but it's not very common.

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