Modals for Asking Permissions | Modal Verbs

Last Updated on January 15, 2020

Modals for Asking Permissions! Learn useful Modals for Asking Permissions in English with grammar rules and example sentences.

Modals for Asking Permissions

Can and May

  • We use CAN to ask for permission from someone we know well.


Can I speak to John Wilson, please?

Can I borrow your pen for a minute?

  • We use May as a slightly more formal way to ask for permission.


May I ask a question please?

May we go home now?

Could and May

  • Could is used as a more polite way of asking for permission.


Could I please have a glass of beer?

(Could is the past tense of can. However, when asking for permission, could does not have a past tense meaning.)

  • Could has the same meaning as may when making requests. It is equally polite to say, “Could I open the window?” or “May I open the window?
  • Could is used with any subject to ask for permission.


Could you open the window?

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