Is It Correct to Say, “May You Please”? (2023)

You will occasionally hear several phrases in the English language that are essentially incorrect, yet people use them fairly often. While the person saying it is trying to be polite, is it correct to say, “May you please”?

It is incorrect to say, “May you please,” as we use the word “may” to ask for permission only in the first person. This means that you cannot use “may” before second-person “you” but, instead, “I.” If you are asking someone to do something for you, the better and correct phrase to use would be “Can,” “Would,” or “Will you please…?”

This article will take a closer look at why it is incorrect to use the phrase “may you please,” and explore the correct, alternative expressions and how to use them in everyday conversation.

Is It Proper Grammar to Say “May You Please”?

It is not correct to use the phrase “may you please” because, in essence, the words “may” and “you” cannot follow one another in that order when asking for permission. We can, however, say “May I please” and, in contrast, we can say “You may…,” which means that someone has permission to do something.

As an example, the sentence “May you please open the door” sounds incorrect to the English speaker’s ear when we combine “may” and “please” with the second person pronoun “you.”

Is It “Can You Please” or “May You Please”?

While there are circumstances where we can use “Can you please…,” “May you please…?” is incorrect as a request.

The word “can” has direct connotations to the ability to do something, which is why it’s generally informal for asking permission. Still, someone may ask you, “Can you open the door?” when there is some obstacle to opening the door.

More often, though, they’re asking you if you are willing to open the door. We can negate any ambiguity by adding the word “please” to the question: “Can you please open the door?” Here, it is fairly clear that the speaker is asking a person to open the door.

Similarly, while you cannot say “may you please explain…?” you could use the word “can” or could instead of “may” in these instances.

Could you please explain the assignment?May you please explain the assignment?
Can you please send me your address?May you please send me your address?
Could you please let me know what time class starts tomorrow?May you please let me know what time class starts tomorrow?

“May You” Expresses a Wish

The only instance we can use “may” and “you” together correctly is when we express a wish for someone else — hope for the future. For example:

  • May you have a wonderful week ahead.
  • May you be blessed with a beautiful and healthy baby.
  • May you get the promotion you so deserve.

In the above sentences, the word “may” expresses the idea of hope. The speaker expresses their desire that the person they are speaking to will receive something that they, the speaker, believe the addressee is deserving of.

However, because it is not a request or a question, you still cannot add the word “please.” The only time you might use “please” after “may you” is when using “please” as a verb,” which leaves room for misunderstanding.

  • May you please the crowd.

Modal Verbs

Modal verbs like “can” and “may” express possibility, permission, or necessity. Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs, which we also call helping verbs, that cannot function as main verbs (source).

We use the helping verb “may” to ask for permission to do something, and we use the adverb “please” to add emphasis or express politeness when asking a question or making a request.

  • May I please go to the canteen?

There is also a hierarchy of politeness and formality among modal verbs. The word “may” is the most formal and polite. There are other words that we use when we are trying to be polite, and they are, in order, “can,” “will,” “could,” “would,” and then the aforementioned “may” (source).

Therefore, if you were to say, “Can you open the door?” it would be informal but polite, yet not quite as polite as “Could you open the door?”

“May” is the most formal and polite, and adding “please” before the main verb adds another layer of politeness. We can do the same for other modal verbs (source).

  • Can you please open the door?
  • Will you please open the door?
  • Could you please open the door?
  • Would you please open the door?

The above example sentences become progressively more polite every time, although they still mean essentially the same thing.

May and the First Person

The main reason why “may you please” is not correct is due to the fact that you cannot use the sentence construction may + you for a request. Instead, the sentence construction for asking for permission is may + I.

You cannot use the word “may” before the word “you,” at least not in this context. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to say, “May you have a wonderful time,” but not “may you open the door.”

Consider the example sentences below using various pronouns:

May I go to the bathroom?May you go to the bathroom?
May he use her laptop?May you use her laptop?
May she accompany me to the restroom?May you accompany me to the restroom?
May we sit on the floor?May you sit on the floor?
May they eat their lunch inside?May you eat your lunch inside?

As you can see in the example sentences above, we can use the word “may” in front of all the pronouns except “you” and “it.”

Is “May I Please” Redundant?

Some would consider using “please” in the phrase “May I please” redundant since “may” already contains a degree of politeness. However, this perceived “politeness” stems largely from the word’s formality and grammatical accuracy in contrast to “Can I please?”

“May” and “please” are two separate parts of speech. While “may” is clearly a modal verb, it’s less clear what part of speech “please” is. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists it as an adverb when we use it this way, while the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries list it as an exclamation expressing strong emotion (source).

If it is an adverb, we might view it as an adverb of manner, similar to “kindly” (source). In this case, the modal verb indicates the main verb’s mood, while the adverb describes the manner of the main verb. Alternatively, we can view it as modifying the sentence as a whole.

In any case, we can add “please” to modify a request and add an additional layer of politeness, but it isn’t required. So, you could say, “May we please sit on the floor?” (source). So, while it’s not essential, it’s not redundant in the sense of excessive.

Although it is essential to avoid redundancy as far as possible, there are other examples of phrases that are seemingly redundant, but are, in fact, correct, as is the case with “most” and “definitely”; for an in-depth discussion, look at “Most Definitely: Meaning and Proper Usage.”

Permission-Related Words

A permission-related word is, quite simply, a word we use when we ask for permission to do something, whether that be on behalf of ourselves or on behalf of someone else.

There are two main permission-related words we use in questions in the English language. They are “can” and “may” and their various derivatives. In general, we consider “may” to be more formal than the word “can.”

Historically, “may” was the first word that English speakers used to ask for permission. It overlapped with the ability to do something, the possibility of something, and asking for permission.

The word “can” first overlapped with the concept of being able to do something and only later took on the meaning of permission as well.

Therefore, it has become a well-known joke in English classrooms that a student will ask the teacher, “Can I go to the bathroom?” simply to have the teacher respond with a cheeky “I don’t know, can you?”

The humor of the above exchange hinges on the idea that the student used the incorrect word “can” instead of “may” and that the student was asking whether they had the ability to go to the bathroom, instead of asking for permission to go to the bathroom (source).

You May

Additionally, as you may remember from the section above on may and the first person, we can use the word “may” in front of all the pronouns except “you” and “it.” This means that you can quite correctly ask, “May I go to the bathroom?” But you cannot ask, “May you go to the bathroom?”

However, you can use the word “may” after the word “you,” which would be correct, as in the examples below. But please note that the sentence will then no longer be a question but, rather, a statement where the subject grants permission to someone else.

If someone were to ask the question, “Can I go to the bathroom?” you will grant permission by saying, “You may go to the bathroom.”

We can apply the same principle to other sentences as well, for example:

  • You may use her laptop.
  • You may accompany me to the restroom.
  • You may sit on the floor.
  • You may eat your lunch inside.

Alternative Expressions

Is It Correct to Say, “May You Please”? (2)

There are a few alternative phrases that are correct and that we can use instead of the phrase “May you please.” These include the use of other modal verbs such as can, could, will, and would.

Can You Please and Could You Please

The words “can,” “could,” and “may” are all modal verbs. While “can” and “may” are present tense modal verbs, “could” is a past tense modal verb. Generally speaking, “could” is more polite than “can, and we consider “may” to be the most polite (source).

While we often use “could” for the past tense or the conditional mood, we can also use it to form requests for the present. When we use it in this way, it carries less force and is polite and formal.

Therefore, we can easily substitute the informal “can” with the more formal “could” if you want to be more polite when making a request. As it is not the most polite, we might also wish to use it in conjunction with the word “please.”

Example sentences:

  • Could you please open the door?
  • Could you please fetch my cat from the vet?
  • Could you please turn to page 34 of your textbooks?

The Modal Verbs Will and Would

We can also use “will” or “would” as alternatives to “may,” but they have a slightly different connotation. The word “will,” when we use it in the phrase “will you please,” is very direct and makes a very clear request.

  • Will you please open the door?

In this example, the speaker is asking if the person is willing to open the door.

Like “could,” we can also use “would” for the conditional mood. Also, while “could” is the past tense version of “can,” “would” is the past tense version of “will.” “Would” is more formal and polite, carrying connotations of hope or desire.

  • Would you please open the door?

When someone uses “would” in this way, there is a certain expectation that the person will comply voluntarily. This article was written for

Either “will” or “would” will work just fine as alternatives to the incorrect “may you please.”

Final Thoughts

The phrase “May you please” is incorrect because you cannot use the word “may” with the second-person pronoun “you” when making a request. However, you can certainly respond to a request by saying, “You may.”

The correct alternative when making a request of someone would be to use another modal verb, such as “can,” “could,” “will,” or “would you please?”

While you can use “Can I please” in a less formal setting, it is more formal and polite to say “May I please.”


Is It Correct to Say, “May You Please”? ›

No, it is not redundant. It is grammatically correct. “May” is the auxiliary verb here and is necessary for the sentence construction.

Is it correct grammar to say may you please? ›

No, it is not grammatically correct, but is considered correct in a vernacular or informal conversation.

Can may and please be used together? ›

It is not correct to use the phrase “may you please” because, in essence, the words “may” and “you” cannot follow one another in that order when asking for permission. We can, however, say “May I please” and, in contrast, we can say “You may…,” which means that someone has permission to do something.

How do you professionally say could you please? ›

Would it be possible to ... Please could you, Ideally, we'd like this by. If you could X, it would be very much appreciated.

How do you say the answer is correct? ›

10 expressions to Use In Speaking And Writing:
  1. Yes, that's right.
  2. You're quite right.
  3. Yes, that's correct.
  4. That's spot on.
  5. You're dead right (there).
  6. Absolutely.
  7. You've hit the nail on the head.
  8. You could say so.

What is the meaning of may you please? ›

It's as though the coworker is asking you whether you have permission to do the thing.

How do you say can you please in a polite way? ›

For example: Could you help me for a minute, please? This shows that the speaker is asking for help politely. To ask questions in a very polite way, use: Would you/ Could you (please) + simple verb + ...?

How do you use may in a polite sentence? ›

May is the most formal/polite and could is more formal and polite than can.
asking for permissiongiving permissionrefusing permission
May I leave the room?Yes, you may.No, you may not.
May we use your phone?Yes, you may.No, you may not.

Which word is more polite can or may? ›

May is the more formal word, and if you are at all concerned about being tut-tutted, a safe choice. Can is now the verb of choice for ability, and both can and may are still used in the "possibility" sense. You may use can if you wish, and you can use may if it makes you feel better.

What is the correct way to use may in a sentence? ›

If something is likely to happen (but there's still a small chance that it won't), the preferred word to use is may. It may rain tonight, but I'm still going to the concert. Johanna may get a promotion. We may go on vacation this summer.

Is Could you please polite enough? ›

Is "could you please" considered polite (ESL, politeness, English, etiquette)? Yes, that form of words is usually considered polite. It's a good way to start a polite request for someone to do something for you.

Which is more polite Could you please or can you please? ›

Both can and could can be used to make a request, but when asking for permission, could is the more polite choice to use.

Which is more polite Could you please or would you please? ›

“Would you” and “Could you” are equally polite and valid ways to make a request. “Could you” sounds more polite than “Would you.” “Would you” sounds more insistent and is more often used in angry requests, such as “Would you please hurry up!”

What can I say instead of answers? ›

Synonyms of answer
  • response.
  • reply.
  • reaction.
  • return.
  • retort.
  • rejoinder.
  • remark.
  • comment.

What is another word for correct answers? ›

Some common synonyms of correct are accurate, exact, nice, precise, and right. While all these words mean "conforming to fact, standard, or truth," correct usually implies freedom from fault or error.

What is the word for giving short answers? ›

Curt often just means "terse." In fact it comes from the Latin word curtus, which means “cut short, abridged.” But sometimes it has the added sense of being rudely short, like when you're irritated that someone's asking a foolish question so you give a brusque, curt response.

How do you answer may I please? ›

Yes. Yes, you may.

What can I say other than please and kindly? ›

  • attentive.
  • benevolent.
  • genial.
  • gentle.
  • good-hearted.
  • gracious.
  • polite.
  • sympathetic.

How do you say yes please in a formal way? ›

Formal or polite ways:

Certainly - In some contexts it means absolute agreement and in other contexts it means yes. It's a polite way of showing willingness. With pleasure - This phrase shows you're happy to do something for someone.

How do you ask politely and professionally? ›

Here are some better phrases to make polite requests in English:
  1. “Do you mind…?.”
  2. “Would you mind…?
  3. “Could I…?”
  4. “Would it be ok if…?”
  5. “Would it be possible…?”
  6. “Would you be willing to…?”

What is the negative of May? ›

The negative form of may is may not + base form. We never use a contraction for this negative. (You might find the word mayn't in a dictionary, but it is not used.)

What can I use instead of May? ›

synonyms for may
  • can.
  • be allowed.
  • be authorized.
  • be permitted.
  • can do.

What is the most polite thing to say? ›

14 Things Polite People Always Say
  • “Hello” ...
  • “Please” ...
  • “Thank you” ...
  • “You're welcome” ...
  • “Excuse me” ...
  • The other person's name. ...
  • “I'm happy to see you” ...
  • “That's so kind of you”
Feb 7, 2023

What is the most polite way to ask? ›

  • Could / Would you do me a favour? Sometimes we want to be polite and ask someone if they are willing to help out in the first place. ...
  • Could I ask / bother / trouble you + infinitive? ...
  • Could you / Would you + base form of verb + please? ...
  • Could you + possibly + verb? ...
  • Would you mind + verb-ing?

Could you please help me in formal way? ›

General phrases for introducing a request for help
  • “Could/Would you do me a favor?” — ...
  • “Could I ask / bother you / trouble you…” — ...
  • “Can you give me a hand with this?” — ...
  • “Lend me a hand with this, will you?” — ...
  • “Could you help me for a second?” — ...
  • “Can I ask a favor?” — ...
  • “Please, could I ask you for some advice?” —
Jul 7, 2022

Which is correct Could you please help me or can you please help me? ›

They are both correct the only difference is that saying could is more polite to say than can when asking for a favour.

Can I please ask or may I please ask? ›

Both is correct but the expression on both is different that's why, have different use according to the sentence. Both “Can I ask" and “May I ask" is intended for permission. but “may" version is more polite than use of can. For Better Sentence, “may" is more appropriate.

What is it called when someone answers a question without answering it? ›

Hypophora, also referred to as anthypophora or antipophora, is a figure of speech in which the speaker poses a question and then answers the question.

How do you answer a question without saying yes? ›

…instead of saying “yes,” you could say:
  1. You got it!
  2. You bet.
  3. Sure thing!
  4. Ok. / Okie Dokie.

What are the alternative answers to reply to a person besides noted? ›

Instead of saying noted, you can say “okay,” “got it,” as informal options. Use “I'll make a note of that,” or “understood” as more formal alternatives.
What can I say Instead of Noted?
  • Got it.
  • Great.
  • Okay or OK.
  • Very good.
  • Understood.
  • I see.
  • Gotcha.
Sep 10, 2022

What is the meaning of correct answers? ›

If something is correct, it is in accordance with the facts and has no mistakes.

What is the formal definition of answers? ›

: something spoken or written in reply especially to a question. : a correct response.

What's another word for looking for answers? ›

synonyms for seeking answer

On this page you'll find 23 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to seeking answer, such as: analyze, check, examine, explore, inquire, and inspect.

How do you follow up after no response to a text? ›

Following up after no response to an initial text

When you're following up on a text message for which there was no response, reinstate the subject of the previous message, so the receiver immediately knows what the text was about. End the text message with a question that remained unanswered after the previous text.

Why do people give one word answers? ›

One-word responses are often used in conversation when someone does not feel like responding to a question. They can also be used to express agreement, disbelief, or frustration.

Do you put a question mark after may you please? ›

6. Many polite requests or instructions are made in the form of a question. But because they are not really questions, they do not take a question mark: Could you please send me your catalogue.

How do you use May for polite request? ›

When making a request using may, only I can be the subject. If you are making a formal request to dance with someone, you would say, “May I have this dance?” not “May you have this dance?” May followed by you does not express a request; it expresses a wish, as in “May you live long.”

How do you use may in a question? ›

May can be used in a question to ask permission. The subject is usually first person singular or plural (I or we). May is considered more polite than can.
May is considered more polite than can.
  1. May I borrow your pen?
  2. May I use your restroom, please?
  3. May we come in?

Can I ask a question or may I? ›

The word 'May I' is used to ask for permission. The word 'Can I' is used to refer to possible abilities or to seek permission. It is used as a verb. It is used as a verb.

How do you politely ask for something in a text? ›

  1. Could / Would you do me a favour? Sometimes we want to be polite and ask someone if they are willing to help out in the first place. ...
  2. Could I ask / bother / trouble you + infinitive? ...
  3. Could you / Would you + base form of verb + please? ...
  4. Could you + possibly + verb? ...
  5. Would you mind + verb-ing?

What are the 5 polite expressions? ›

9 Things Polite People Always Say
  • Please.
  • Thank You.
  • You're Welcome.
  • Pardon Me.
  • Excuse Me.
  • I'm Sorry.
  • May I Help You?
  • I Would Like... / May I Please Have...?
Feb 17, 2023

Which is more polite might or may? ›

When might and may are used with the same meaning, may is more formal than might. Might and may are called modals. In conversation, the negative form mightn't is often used instead of `might not'. The form mayn't is much less common.

What is simple polite request? ›

Making Polite Requests in English with Examples (Formal) I Was Wondering If You Could/Would It Be Possible For You To. I Would Be Grateful If You Could/I Would Appreciate It If You Could. Would You Be So Kind As To. We Request That/You Are Requested Not to Do Something.


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