As a writer, I frequent sites that help me with my current work-in-progress. Today’s article stresses the correct use of can and may. I hope it is helpful to you.


Can and may belong to a category of verbs variously referred to as auxiliary, helping, modal, and defective. They are linguistic fossils, deriving from Old English conjugations that have dwindled through time to only one or two forms.

May and its past form might come from OE magan, “may, to be able.” In modern English, may sometimes carries the sense of expressing permission. Some parents still teach their children to make requests with the word may rather than can. The routine goes like this:

m sure you canChild: May I play outside? Mother: Yes, you may. Click here to learn more.