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Modals for Requests | Can, Could, May


Nora is in a health store.

Clerk: Morning, can I help you?

Nora: Yes, please. I'd like some multivitamins? I’m feeling a little run down right now.

Clerk: Sure. These ones are our bestsellers at the moment.

Nora: OK, thanks. Can I also have some royal jelly, if you have any. I've heard such wonderful things about it.

Clerk: Sure, here you are. It really is popular these days. Anything else?

Nora: No, that will be all, thanks. And thanks for your help.

Clerk: Any time.

Grammar Notes

Point 1: The modals 'can', 'could' and 'may' are usually used to make requests in shops, stores, restaurants etc.
  1. Can I take a look at the menu, please?
  2. Could you copy this document?
Point 2: Requests with modals increase the level of politeness over questions like 'do you have?' or statements like 'I want'.
  1. Can I have some milk? (Slightly polite)
  2. Could I have some milk? (Polite)
  3. May I have some milk? (Very polite)
Point 3: In questions with modals, the form is modal+subject+verb.
  1. Can I have the window seat?
  2. Could my son go with you?
Point 4: "May I help you?" or "Can I help you?" are offers of help and not requests.
Answer these questions about the interview.

Keep Learning

Go here are some more great lessons!

Vocabulary Challenge

Complete the sentences with the words below.
borrow • give • stop
sit • open
  1. Can I the window? It is hot in here.
  2. Can I you a hand? You look like you need help.
  3. May I here?
  4. Can I by your house later?
  5. Could I some money?