ConfusingVocabulary

Can or May?

Can or May?


When to use CAN instead of MAY

Can is a modal auxiliary. It is used to express ability.

  • She can swim.
  • They can read.


Could is the past of can.

  • I could run 10 km when I was 20.


Note: Can is sometimes used to express permission. (Informal)

  • They can have desert.
  • Can I please have more salad?


When to use MAY instead of CAN

May is a modal auxiliary. It is used to express or request permission.

  • May I go swimming?
  • May we read the report you wrote?
  • You may have more pie.
  • May I join you?
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