Two words which are often confused are can and may.
The word can is used to denote ability:
I can swim. ( I have the ability to swim)
She can play the piano. (She has the ability to play the piano)
Can he speak Japanese? (Does he have the ability to speak Japanese)
The word may is used to denote permission:
You may come in. (You have permission to come in.)
You may swim here. (You are allowed to swim here.)
May I have a cookie? (Do I have permission to have a cookie?)
Nowadays the word can is used for both ability and permission especially in a n informal situation.
You can swim here. (You are allowed to swim here.)
Can I have a cookie? (Do I have permission to have a cookie?)
You can't come in yet. (You do not have permission to enter.)
In a formal situation however you should use may for permission. It is also important to remember that can and may are both used for permission but can only is used for ability.
Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school
Now complete the following with can or may: