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Usage of 'can' and 'may'


    Author:     Member Level: Gold    Points: 5 (Rs 5)

During my interaction with my friends daily, I noticed they tend to
use 'can' and 'may' without understanding the significance of what is the
meaning conveyed.

The dictionary gives the meaning as:

CAN: to be able to; have the ability, power, or skill to, to know how to, to
have the right or qualifications to etc..

Now, let us see how we use it during the conversation.
Can I know the model number of the printer?

The meaning conveyed here is: do you know, do you have the intelligence to
find it if you do not know it, such simple information like the model
number. This is so insulting. We are directly challenging the intelligence of other person.

MAY: used to express opportunity or permission, used to express wish or
prayer

Now, let us its implementation during conversation..
May I know the model number of the printer?

The meaning conveyed here is: I trust you to give me the information which
will assist me to provide the correct solution.

Now, comes the question, is the 'May' the only correct way to ask a
question.



Sample Usage

I would say: There are other ways to ask questions.
For example: Could, Is, Do, Did, Have, When, Where etc. are all correct
ways to frame questions.

For example:
Could I know the connectivity between the printer and computer?
Is the printer connected to the wall jack or the surge protector?
Do you still see the error message displayed?
Did the shared webpage pop up on the screen?
Have you tried any troubleshooting steps?


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