Asking people to do thing (requests)
We use can or could to ask people to do things:
– Can you wait a minute, please?
or Could you wait a minute, please?
Liz, can you do me a favor?
Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to the airport?
I wonder if you could help me.
Note that we say Do you could lend me some money until next week?
We also use will and would to ask people to do things (but can/could are more common):
Iiz, will you do me a favor?
Would you please be quiet? I’m trying to concentrate.
Asking for things
To ask for something, we use Can I have …? / Could I have …? or Can I get …?
(in a gift shop) Can I have these postcards, please? (or Can I get …?)
(during a meal) Could I have the salt, please?
May I have …? is also possible:
May I have these postcards, please?
Asking to do things
To ask to do something, we use can, could, or may”
(on the phone) Hello, can I speak to Tom, please”
“Could I use your phone?” “Yes, of course.”
Do you think I could borrow your bike?
“May I come in?” “Yes, please do.”
May is formal and less common than can or could.
To ask to do something, you can also say Do you mind if I …? or
It is all right / It is OK if I …?
“Do you mind if I use your phone?” “No. Not at all.”
“Is it all right if I come in?” “Yes, of course.”
Offering to do things
We use Can I …? or May I … ? when we offer to do things:
“Can I get you a cup of coffee?” “Yes, that would be very nice.”
(in a store) “May I help you?” “No, thanks. I’m being helped.”
May is more formal than can.
Offering and inviting
To offer or to invite, we use Would you like …? (not Do you like):
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” “Yes, please.”
“Would you like to go to the movies with us tonight?” “Yes, I’d love to.”
I’d like … is a polite way of saying what you want:
(at a tourist information center) I’d like some information about hotels, please.
(in a store) I’d like to try on this jacket, please.