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Old 06-20-2019, 09:43 AM
pulykamell is online now
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Originally Posted by Carryon View Post
Can means "able," may is "asking permission."

So you could use both, "Can I have..." or "May I have..." depending on the situation.
"Can" is fine as a word meaning to seek permission. See Merriam-Webster's note.

It didn’t take too long for teachers and grammarians of the day to proscribe that can should only be used of ability and may of permission. We find the rule spelled out clearly (complete with a fictional student-teacher exchange) in Charles Lurie’s 1926 How To Say It: Helpful Hints On English. There is no particular reason for the rule, except for the fact that may has been used longer to mean “to give permission” than can has. Nonetheless, the “rule” lives on.

In reality, can likely has more use in the “permission” sense than is recorded, as it is more informal and so shows up in speech more frequently than may does. May is the more formal word, and if you are at all concerned about being tut-tutted, a safe choice. Can is now the verb of choice for ability, and both can and may are still used in the "possibility" sense. You may use can if you wish, and you can use may if it makes you feel better.
For me, the only difference is that "may" sounds a bit more genteel, possibly because of this "rule" being handed down by school teachers over time but, otherwise, perfectly fine. I would only use the word "may" in asking for something if I'm self-consciously choosing to speak in a more refined register (IOW, around people who might 'tut-tut" the usage.) Otherwise, it's "can" 95% of the time.

Last edited by pulykamell; 06-20-2019 at 09:44 AM.