CAN vs MAY!!! Many English speakers are confused about the usage of the words MAY vs CAN. For example, “Can I drink water?” is incorrect. “May I drink water?” is the correct phrase to use in this case.
CAN vs MAY
The key difference between MAY vs CAN is that “can” talks about ability and “may” talks about permission.
CAN Meaning and Examples
Can is an auxiliary verb.
It is used in two cases:
– To talk about ability.
- I can finish my homework at 5 pm.
- Can you finish your homework tonight?
- Can you do the salsa?
- Can you play basketball?
– To ask or give permission informally.
- Can I use your pen?
- You can use my pen.
- Can I ask you a question?
MAY Meaning and Examples
May is also an auxiliary verb.
It is generally used to give or ask permission formally.
– The situation between a student and a teacher.
- – “May I drink water?” – Teacher: “Yes, you may“.
– The situation between two strangers.
- – “May I borrow your pen?” – “Yes, you may“.
Difference between MAY vs CAN | Infographic
Confused Words: When to Use CAN vs MAY