Asking for permission

From Teflpedia

Asking for permission is a language function; primarily an interactional language function, though it may be partially transactional.

In English, we generally do this:

  • With can; e.g. "Can I go to the toilet please?". Although "can" refers to ability rather than permission, from a child's perspective they seem the same.
    • This may be distanced in reality into the past tense, e.g. "Could I go to the toilet please?" - the answer is usually in the present tense; "yes, you can"
  • With may; e.g. "May I go to the toilet please?".
    • This may be distanced in reality into the past tense, e.g. "Might I go to the toilet please?"


  • "Is it OK if..." can be used with a first conditional or second conditional.
    • "Is it OK if I go to the toilet?"
    • "Will it be OK if I go to the toilet?"
    • "Would it be OK if I went to the toilet?"

With permission as a noun:

  • Do I have permission to...

With adjectives:

  • Am I permitted to...?
    • Would I be permitted to...?
  • Am I allowed to...?
    • Would I be allowed to...?