What's the difference between can,could and may?

I'm an English learner,can you help me?

I'm from China,so I can't understand them...


1 Answer 1


They all have unique meanings which a dictionary will tell you. However, they can be interchangeable in certain contexts.

"Can" indicates that something is a possibility eg. "I can go to the shops for you"

"Could" indicates a possibility that is perhaps dependent on something a condition eg. "I could go to the shops for you if I can borrow your car"

"May" can indicate an uncertain possibility eg "I may go to the shops today, or maybe tomorrow"

An example where "could" and "may" are interchangeable would be:

Q. Who is knocking at the door?
A. It could be my dad / It may be my dad

  • so,can we say"may I borrow your book?" or "could i borrow your book?"or"can i borrow your book?"? Mar 31, 2020 at 11:45
  • 1
    @YangJingbo You could say any - but the polite question is "May I borrow your book" - because it is indicates uncertainty, so is the least presumptuous. (you should have said in your question that you wanted to use these words in a question)
    – Astralbee
    Mar 31, 2020 at 11:49
  • Thanks! I get it. Mar 31, 2020 at 23:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .