Modals for Asking Permissions | Modal Verbs in English Grammar

Learn useful Modals for Asking Permissions in English with examples.

Can and May

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

Examples:

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.

Examples:

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.

Example:

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.

Examples:

Could you open the window?

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