This is a common way to ask for permission. It is considered very polite and we can use it in any situation – formal or casual.
May I + verb...?
May I borrow your phone for a second?
May I go to the restroom, teacher?
May I see your ticket, sir?
May I ask you a personal question?
May I ask you a political question?
It is possible to ask for permission for another person. Just change "I" to another pronoun or a person's name.
May Bill come to the party?
May Susan sit in on the meeting?
May my son attend the show?
May she go first?
We can give permission to another person or people using this sentence pattern. Or we can deny permission by using "may not".
Subject + may not + verb...
She may come if she wants to.
You may go to the restroom.
You may ask me one question.
Children may not attend the show.
You may not use my car.
He may not join this meeting. It is private.
The students may not talk during the test.
We can also use a negative subject to show that a person or group of people does not have permission.
No people may enter.
No children may enter this place.
No men may join the women's club.
Nobody may look at this file until Friday.
Nobody may go to the bathroom during the exam.
Bonus Tips and Points
1. There is no contraction for "may not" (mayn't).
She may not leave until we are finished.
We may not look at the answer.
2. There are two ways that we can use "may". The first way is to give permission – that is what we studied in this lesson. But, we can also use "may" the same as the word "might". We use it to show that maybe something will happen in the future.
I may go to the party. (=I might go to the party. / Maybe, I will go to the party.)
It may rain. (=It might rain. / Maybe, it will rain.)
She may come. (=She might come. / Maybe, she will come.)
Real-World English Conversations
A) May I leave? B) Sure. You are free to leave at any time.
A) May I see your ticket, please? B) Here you are.
A) May I ask you a personal question? B) Go ahead. A) How old are you? B) I'm 32.
A) May I ask you a political question? B) Actually, I would prefer it if you did not.
A) May Bill also come to the party? B) Sure. Both of you are welcome to come.
A) May I ask you a question? B) Go ahead. A) Why do you always sit by yourself at lunch? B) I just like to sit quietly when I eat.
Use these free English lessons to learn the most common sentence patterns in the English language. If you learn these sentence and questions well, it will help you speak English well. Study the lessons thoroughly, practice making your own sentences, and come back to review often. If you do these three steps, your English speaking will improve quickly and you will be able to have natural English conversations.
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