Can and May: The Bane of Many an English Teacher


Do you remember being in elementary school and having to use the facilities? Making your way up to the teacher’s desk after waiting too long to begin with, crossing your legs in a futile attempt to stave off what could only be described as certain humiliation?

“Can I have the girls’ bathroom pass?”

The teacher looks up blankly at you. “I suppose you could.” And then goes back to grading papers without handing you anything.

You hop from foot to foot, pee pee dancing in utter disbelief.

The teacher sighs and puts down her red pen. “May I help you?”

Finally, the lightbulb goes on. “May I have the girls’ bathroom pass?”

“Yes, of course, dear.”

You rip the pass out of her hand and sprint down the hall.

It was an infuriating, but effective way to learn the difference between “can” and “may.”

“Can” means am/is/are able.


I can write a sentence.

“May” requests permission.


May I have some candy?

Coming Friday:
Horror Month wraps up with award-winning authors Daniel Pyle and Julie Ann Weinstein. You are not going to want to miss this!


jimowin said…
Hi Karen,
I'm always looking for good stories about people, books and odd things about books. If exchanging links is of interest please let me know
Hi, Jim.

Glad you found Bibliophilic Blather. I am up for trading links. Please let me know what your blog is, and I will check it out.


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