How to use modal verbs for permission, requests & offers

How do we ask for permission in English? How do we make a request? And how do we make offers?  Find out about permission, requests & offers using modal verbs in English in this video lesson...


In this video lesson, we're going to look at how we use modal verbs to ask for permission, make a request or make an offer.

If you want to ask for permission in English, the easiest, the most common way is to use the modal verb 'can'. As we've seen, 'can' is very flexible, we can use it in many different ways. So for example, if you want to use 'can' to ask for permission, you could say: "Can I ask a question?" If you want to sound more formal or more polite, you could say: "Could I ask a question". However it's important to note that it is considered more grammatically correct to use 'may' instead of 'can' because 'can' is more associated with ability, 'may' is more associated with asking for permission. So 'May I ask a question' is considered much more correct. However, these days it's more common that we use 'can' instead of 'may'. But 'may' sounds very formal, it sounds probably too formal for most situations, so even though it's considered more correct than 'can', 'can' is much more common today. So 'Can I ask a question?' sounds much more natural than 'May I ask a question?' It's much more common these days.

If you're making a request, it's more polite to use 'could' or 'would'. So, for example: "Could you give me a hand?" Or "Would you carry this for me?" However, if the situation is more informal, you can use 'can' or 'will'. So "Can you give me a hand?" or "Will you carry this for me?"

To make an offer, 'can' is most commonly used. So "Can I give you a hand?" If you see that somebody needs your help, rather than asking the question, it's more direct to say: "I will give you a hand", so use the modal verb 'will' in this case. If you want to be more polite and more formal, you could use the modal verb 'shall' - "Shall I give you a hand?"

OK, let's do some practice. So I'm going to give you some example sentences using those modal verbs and I want you to decide am I asking for permission, making a request or making an offer?

OK, so that's how we ask for permission, make a request or make an offer using modal verbs in English. If you're still not sure, go back and watch the video again. The second time it will be much easier and much clearer. Give the video a like, share with your friends and subscribe to my channel and go to and take a course, which will help you to improve every aspect of your English. Keep practising your English every day, good luck and I'll see you in the next video lesson.