Direct speech: "You may borrow my car for a day."

I would like to convert this to indirect speech. Which option is more appropriate?

A) He permitted to borrow his car for a day.


B) He told her that she might borrow his car for a day.**

[I think the answer is B but it may also mean to give permission.]

  • 2
    This is not in common usage--I can't think of an example when I would use might or may this way. Use "He told her that she could borrow his car" instead. – farnsy Dec 22 '17 at 1:16
  • Your question isn't clear. Do you want to ask the meaning of may in this context or do you want to know what's the indirect form of your sentence? If it's the latter, B is the proper answer but I think @farnsy is right. It's not a common usage. – Aragaki Aya Dec 22 '17 at 1:47
  • I want to ask which option is most appropriate , A or B. – asr09 Dec 22 '17 at 1:49
  • "He permitted her to borrow his car" is fine. – farnsy Dec 22 '17 at 2:17
  • I realized reading over this again, that, in fact, "may has two uses in English. I have tried to sort them out in my answer and explain them. It took rereading the question several times for me to figure out why I was uncomfortable with might. I had sort of forgotten all this from my English teaching days... – Lambie May 10 '18 at 18:43

I think either option is correct if you change a couple of words. These are all acceptable sentences:

He allowed her to borrow his car for a day. [GOOD]

He let her borrow his car for a day. [GOOD]

He permitted her to borrow his car for a day. [OK, but not as common as above]

He told her she may borrow his car for a day. [GOOD]

He told her she could borrow his car for a day. [OK. This is so common in everyday speech that people will know what you mean, but avoid this in formal writing.]

Option B as you wrote it above (she might borrow) does not express granting of permission as you intended.

  • Well, if you add "her" to it, it is grammatical, correct? – Ringo Dec 22 '17 at 4:25
  • I am not a native English speaker. I think your examples are very good and helpful to people like me. Thank you for that. But, isn't may in the fourth example sentence wrong? I have been taught that when the tense is past, then may has to be converted into might, except when may is used to describe a possibility of an event that happened in the past. – Smart Humanism May 10 '18 at 7:38
  • @Lambie In the first sentence I say "if you change a couple of words," so I don't think what I said is misleading. 2 upvoters can't be wrong! – Ringo May 10 '18 at 16:59
  • 1
    @SmartHumanism I think you might be right about "might." What flavor of English do you speak? In the US, it would be uncommon or even confusing to say He told her she might borrow his car for a day. This implies that she may or may not wish to borrow the car, and that he is somehow informing her of her own wishes: He told her she might (want to) borrow the car. – Ringo May 10 '18 at 17:03
  • Thank you, for the reply. I think you're right. And I am not a native English speaking student who is learning English. The information I stated in the above comment could be totally wrong. I am sorry. – Smart Humanism May 10 '18 at 19:28

There are two uses of **may in English**

1) - To ask permission as in "May I borrow you car?"

Answer: Yes, you may; No, you may not.


2) - May is a modal verb used to state something that is not 100% certain: [He said:] "You may borrow his car tonight."

The reported speech for 1) would then be:

He said she could borrow his car. Or:

He said she could not borrow his car. [AKA He gave her permission to borrow his car.] This could even be: He allowed her to borrow his car. BUT: it cannot be might.

The reported speech for 2) in the present tense would then be:

He said she may borrow his car tonight.

Past Tense: He said she might borrow his car tonight.

In 2), may is used to express uncertainty about whether she will or will not borrow his car. In 1) one person is being asked permission by another to borrow something.

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