Can I help you OR May I help you?

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Vladimir:
What is better:
Can I help you ? How can I help you?
OR
May I help you? How can I help you?
What can I do for you?
OR
What may i do for you?
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Anonymous:
"May" is more polite and formal.
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Patok:
[nq:1]What is better: Can I help you ? How can I help you? OR May I help you? How can I help you? What can I do for you? OR What may i do for you?[/nq]
Usually, the more polite form is "may". However, it depends on the circumstances. It is important to remember that the two questions mean different things. "May" asks for permission: do you allow? "Can" asks: is it possible?
"How can I help you? What can I do for you?" asks /what/ kind of help is required. You would ask these questions, when you want to help, but it is not clear what the problem is - somebody crying for no obvious reason, for example. If it is something simple - like they just lost their ring, you /can/ help search for it. If they cry because they don't have a million dollars, you most probably /can't/ help (unless you're a billionaire, of course).
"May I help you?" asks if they need your help; it asks for permission to help them, when it is clear what the problem is. If somebody tries to lift something heavy into their car, you can ask that question - they may, or may not need your help.

You'd be crazy to e-mail me with the crazy. But leave the div alone.
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Vladimir:
"If they cry because they don't
have a million dollars, you most probably /can't/ help (unless you're a billionaire, of course)."
)) Excellent joke!
If you are not Abramowitsch or Bill Gates;))
"Patok" (Email Removed) ??/?? ? ?? ??:
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GFH:
[nq:1]What is better: Can I help you ? =A0How can I help you? OR =A0May I help you? =A0How can I help you? What can I do for you? OR What =A0may i do for you?[/nq]
The meaning of "can I" is "am I able to".
The meaning of "may I" is "do I have permission to".

Most Americans misuse "can". The Brits can speak
for themselves.
GFH
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Ian Jackson:
(Email Removed), GFH (Email Removed) writes
[nq:2]What is better: Can I help you ?  How can I help you? OR May I help you?  How can I help you? What can I do for you? OR What  may i do for you?[/nq]
[nq:1]The meaning of "can I" is "am I able to". The meaning of "may I" is "do I have permission to". Most Americans misuse "can". The Brits can speak for themselves.[/nq]
I agree that, when offering help, "may" may be 'more polite', but I would almost invariably use "can". It certainly couldn't be taken as being rude or familiar, and is essentially just an indication of my lack of education.

Ian
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Vladimir:
It is very close to German:
CAN ° KOENNEN (können)
MAY ° DUERFEN (dürfen)
"Ian Jackson" (Email Removed) ??/?? ? ?? ??:
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Ian Jackson:
(Email Removed), GFH (Email Removed) writes
[nq:2]It is very close to German: CAN   °   KOENNEN (können) MAY   °   DUERFEN  (dürfen)[/nq]
[nq:1]Germans also misuse können and dürfen.[/nq]
But how do the French cope with "can" and "may"? As far as I know, "can" and "may" have to share the single verb "pouvoir".

And this begs the question "Is 'may'' really a verb?" I was taught that a verb is a 'doing word', which "may" isn't.

Ian
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Eric Walker:
[nq:1]And this begs the question . . . .[/nq]
No; it doesn't.
http://begthequestion.info

Cordially,
Eric Walker, Owlcroft House
http://owlcroft.com/english /
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