May I Have A Word With You?

Have you discovered the joy of being fascinated with words?  In periods of limited contact with the outside world we have the unsought gift of time for otherwise unthinkable pursuits.

Take two of the tiniest words in our lexicon:  may and can.  So often incorrectly employed.  

Let’s begin with definitions.  “May” expresses possibility.  (“You may be right.”)  It also communicates permission.  (“May I have seconds?”)  “Can” describes ability.  (“She can type fast.”)  Curiously, it too connotes permission.  (“You may be excused.”)  When dealing with permission, either may or can is kosher.  “May” is also the name of a month, and “can” is an object that you can – or may – kick down the street.

Which is correct?  (1) “If I may, can I ask you a question?” or (2) “If I can, may I ask you a question?”)  Depending on the situation, both are proper.

In closing ….

May the Lord bless you and take care of you; may the Lord be kind and gracious to you; may the Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.”  (Numbers 6:24-26)
“I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.”  (Philippians 4:13)