I am learning English and so I am also trying to teach my son to speak English in daily life. He doesn't always want to take a nap in the afternoon on weekends. I told him to ask me

"Can I skip the nap in this afternoon?"

Do native speakers say it this way? Or what would a native speaker say in this case? I would appreciate it if you give more forms or even more sentences in this dialog. Thanks a million!

  • Teaching your kids vocabulary and short fixed phrases is a good idea but be wary of actually speaking to them in a language you are not confident with. Non-native speakers should encourage their children to speak a 2nd language as early as possible but that doesn't mean speaking to them in that foreign language, especially if the parents are not fluent speakers. They may inadvertently pass on bad habits to their children, e.g. grammatical errors, awkward phrases, mispronunciations etc. – Mari-Lou A Jul 11 '18 at 19:33
  • Thanks for your advice. I agree with the disadvantages you mentioned above. But for most families in China, they don’t have a chance to let their kids be exposed to native English speakers in sufficient time. That’s why I am trying my best to do so and asking questions on the forum. Anyhow thanks for your reminding. :) – Benny Jul 12 '18 at 5:34

The closest thing to what you want in the most natural English would be:

"Can I skip my nap this afternoon?"

  • The most proper of proper English would say you must say 'May I...'. And of course hardly anyone in real life ever says it this way except maybe Mary Poppins. Almost always you want to say 'Can I...' because 'may I...' is very stilted and old-fashioned.

  • 'my nap', not 'the nap'. I have a hard time explaining this as a general rule. But it just sounds much more natural to say 'my' here rather than 'the'. "I am going to eat my lunch." is natural. If you said 'the lunch' it'd sound like you're going to have everybody e;se's lunch also.

  • 'this afternoon' not 'in this afternoon'. For a general repeated time, you can say 'in the morning' or 'Friday s'. But for a specific one, just say 'this morning' or 'last Friday'

    I ate breakfast this morning

    I eat breakfast in the morning usually


Most answers on this forum will likely focus on use of the word "can" rather than "may". The more polite form would be for your son to ask permission, as in "May I skip my nap this afternoon?".

That said, the use of "can" is not incorrect https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/usage/can-or-may

To expand the dialog your son could try to justify or mitigate the nap skipping with reasons like "I'm not tired enough", "my friends are playing now", "yesterday I did not sleep at all", or "I promise to go to bed on time without argument".

The question veers into parenting style very quickly. Some parents will want the child to state a request and reason, then abide by the parental decision. Others will invite the child to make the choice, but accept the consequences (e.g. "You can decide skip the nap, but you loose the privilege next time if you're cranky at dinner time or skip any chores later.").

As for language, it is now popular to stick with your native language at home, and leave the English learning to school and the playground. Your English may need focused adult effort, but your kid will absorb all but the finer points on the playground.


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