You can play outside if you like?

Hi, it seems that may and can often have the same function, especially in spoken English. Let’s take the following sentence:

You can play outside if you like.
Here, can indicates a permission.

But what if I use may instead of can?

You may play outside if you like.

Would that make sense too?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Hill biking[YSaerTTEW443543]

‘Can’ and ‘may’ are unofficially viewed as synonyms. ‘May’ sounds more polite, though, and is definitely more formal. I’d use it to ask for a pay raise, for example, but I’d say 'Can I borrow your pen’ or ‘You can play outside’.

Hi Torsten

Did you know that your question has now also been posted by someone named “hoaihuong” on a different website? :?

I agree with Conchita, the use of can is more informal and is frequently used in situations involving permission. May is more formal. In your sentence, the use of may also sounds formally “parental” to me.

I’d also say that may is more likely to be used in a request. Your sentence sounds like it could be simply a suggestion rather than a response to a request.

But, let’s take a slightly different example (more likely to involve two adults):

You can borrow my dictionary if you like.
You may borrow my dictionary if you like.

The use of may would be overly formal and could therefore possibly sound sarcastic, in my opinion.

Hi Amy,

Thanks for letting me know about our grammar fan club that seems to include members from Italya too :-)…[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Solar energy panels[YSaerTTEW443543]