Giving and Asking for Permission

Asking permission is a social skill that is a need in any culture. On the other hand, being able to allow someone to do something is another skill. Read more.

"Giving and Asking for" Permission in English

What Is the General Rule of Asking for Permission?

It is socially important to look at the people when you are talking to them, then you have to ask for permission with a pleasant and polite voice. On the other hand, people have to give permissions with a logical explanation and in a polite way. Now let us learn the grammatical rules to be polite and gentle while contacting people in society.

Asking for Permission

Here are three main words that are used to ask for permission. To be clear these three words are all modal verb.

Using 'Can' (Present)

You can use the modal verb 'can' to ask for permission, however, this is not considered a polite way and it is more direct especially when you are talking to a person who has authority over you.

Can I borrow your coat?

Can I open your bedroom's window?

Using 'May' (Present)

Using 'may' is a very polite and formal way to ask for permission for something or to do something. So, this is a suitable way to ask for permission from the one who has authority over you, such as your boss or teacher.

May I go out of the class?

May we go downstairs?

Using 'Could' (Present)

As you may know the modal verb 'could' is the past tense of the modal verb 'can.' But when asking for permissions, it is used in the present tense. And it is a polite way of asking for permission.

Could I drive your car to the ceremony?

Could I wear a little bit of your perfume?

Using 'Please'

To make yourself more polite you can use the term please at the end of the question. Usually, there is a comma before the word 'please.' Check out the examples.

May I sit down, please?

Can I use your phone, please?

using 'can' to ask for permission

Do You Mind If ?

This expression is used to ask for permission or to be clearer, it refers to asking if doing something bothers anybody. In this case, you are more determined. This does not mean you do it in any case, no matter what, but you are more decisive.

Do you mind if I close the door?

Do you mind if I use your phone?

Using First-person Singular Pronoun

As you can see, in all of our examples we used the first person singular pronoun I. This is because when we ask for permission, we are usually talking about ourselves. So, mostly we use the pronoun 'I', but not always.

Could I talk to the principal?

May she stay here with you, for a while?

Would I Be Able to?

This expression is used to ask for permission as well. When we use this expression, we are not decisive to do the particular action, and we are just asking for permission. Check out the examples.

Would I be able to use your class today?

Would I be able to play in the mud with my friends?

Give Permission

Phrases and Expressions to Give Permissions

There are some phrases and expressions that are used to give permission to others in a polite way. Here we have some of them on the list.

  • Go ahead
  • Sure, please do.
  • No problem
  • Feel Free
  • Yes, you can.
  • Yes, you may.

Check out the dialogues for more clarification:

Alex : Mom! Can I use the computer, please?

His mother : Sure honey, go ahead!

Alex : May I listen to music, too?

His mother : Yes, feel free.


There are some phrases and expressions that are used to refuse someone's request for permission, 'politely'. Here are some of them on the list below.

  • I am terribly sorry, but the answer is 'no'.
  • I am afraid, you can't.
  • It is not possible.
  • No, you may not.

Check out the dialogue for more clarification.

Student : Excuse me! May I leave the classroom?

teacher : I am afraid, you may not.

Student : May I drink water in the class?

teacher : I am sorry, but the answer is 'no.'

To Be Allowed to Do Something

We use to be allowed to do something whether to give permission or ask for it. Look at the examples for more clarification.

Am I allowed to go out tonight?

You are allowed to stay out late just tonight.


Modal verbs such as could, may, can are used to ask permission. Mong these verbs only may and can are used to give permission. Check the table of tenses that these verbs are used in.

can may could
Give permission
Ask permission
Present tense
Past tense
Future tense


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