Unit 30. Can, could, may and would: requests, permission, offers, and invitations
|We often use can or could when we ask someone to do something:
Can you wait a moment, please?
Ann, can you do me a favor?
Excuse me. Could you tell me how to get to the bus station?
Do you think you could lend me some money?
I wonder if you could help me.
We also use would to ask someone to do something:
Ann, would you do me a favor?
Would you wait here, please?
(in a gift shop) Can I have these postcards, please?
(at the dinner table) Could I have the salt, please?
To ask for something you can say Can I have… ? / Could I have…? / May I have…?
Asking for and giving permission
We often use can, could, or ma to ask permission to do something:
(on the telephone) Hello, can I speak to Tom, please?
“Could I use your telephone?” “Yes, of course.”
“Do you think I could borrow your bicycle?” “Yes, help yourself.”
“May I come in?” “Yes, please do.” To give permission, we use can or may (but not could):
You can (or may) smoke if you like.
“Can I get you a cup of coffee?” “That’s very nice of you.”
(in a store) “May I help you, ma’am?” “No thank you. I’m being helped.”
We sometimes use can or may when we offer to do things. (May is more formal.):
Would you like a cup of coffee? (not do you like)
Would you like to go to the movies with us tomorrow evening? (not do you like to come)
For offering and inviting we use Would you like… ? (not do you like):
I’d like (= I would like) is a polite way of saying what you want or what you want to do:
I’d like some information about hotels, please.
I’d like to try on this jacket, please.