English Grammar Exercise 1

Using ‘can’ and ‘may’ correctly:

I have a confession to make. I am one of those people that work in schools and responds to the inevitable student question, ‘Can I go to the toilet?’ by saying, ‘I don’t know. Give it a try and see if you can.’ I am glad to say that more often than not I get a smile from the student. Behind that smile is obviously a thinking process that says, ‘Mr. Nugent, you are such an idiot!’

In English, the modal verbs ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘can’, and ‘could’ are used to express possibilities. The following Oxford Online English video lesson aims to help you understand how and when to use can, could, may, and might correctly.

By the way, if you do not quite understand why that comment is a bit funny, you need to work through this English Grammar exercise! The point is that ‘can’ and ‘may’ are commonly transposed in the English language, but they have completely different meanings. ‘Can’ refers to the ability to do something. ‘May’ refers to having permission to do something.

Read over the following sentences. Which ones use ‘may’ or ‘can’ correctly? Which ones do not use the terms correctly? Remember, it doesn’t matter if the statements are ‘True’ or ‘False’! It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with the statements! Just say whether or not the sentences use the terms ‘can’ and ‘may’ correctly. Try the exercise and write your responses down because I will post answers in the next couple of days!

English Grammar Exercise 1 – Questions

1. Sir, may I go to the bathroom, please?
2. I think the Indiana Pacers may beat the LA Lakers this weekend.
3. Only adults can drink alcoholic beverages.
4. Smoking can harm an unborn baby.
5. Psychologists are the only people who can measure somebody’s IQ.
6. My MacBook Pro can do things I never imagined!
7. Tell my children they can go to Mary’s to play after school.
8. I may not complete my algebra homework!
9. I can get to your party, but my Mother said I can only go after I have done my English assignment.
10. My teacher told me that I can sit for the test next week instead, but I may only do that if I am not sick.

English Grammar Exercise 1 – Answers

1. Sir, may I go to the bathroom, please?
2. I think the Indiana Pacers can beat the LA Lakers this weekend.
3. Only adults may drink alcoholic beverages.
4. Smoking can harm an unborn baby.
5. Psychologists are the only people who may measure somebody’s IQ.
6. My MacBook Pro can do things I never imagined!
7. Tell my children they may go to Mary’s to play after school.
8. I cannot complete my algebra homework!
9. I can get to your party, but my Mother said I may go only after I have done my English assignment.
10. My teacher told me that I may sit for the test next week instead, but I can only do that if I am not sick.

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