Submitted by josh on August 15, 2008

beginning a request with “may”

“May you please send me the...” Is this correct? It doesn’t sound right. I believe this person is using the same logic as asking permission to do something. Wouldn’t ” Will you please send me the...” or “Would you please...” be correct?

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"may" is typically only used in the first person so may i..? may we...? or also the

you're essentially asking the person for permission to do something so why would you ask someone for their own permission to do something

your original sentence would be better using

Can/Could/Will or Would you please send me the...

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I agree with Anon.

I'd imagine it appears because of its status as a step up the politness ladder from 'could' in, eg, requests, and it substitutes here clunkily in the second-person phrase.

May you... or May he/she/it... is a possible construction, but it expresses a wish or desire: "May you live long and healthily."

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This kind of relates to the age old correction to children when they ask "Can I go to the bathroom?" — Of course you are able to! What you mean to ask is "May I go to the bathroom?" That way you are actually asking permission to do something that you already know you are physically able to do.

In the case of "May you please send me the..." you are asking if it is okay that the other person send you something. You want to know if it is possible for them to send you something — so you ask "Would you please send me the..."

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"May you please send me" is SO WRONG.

'May' is a permission related word. Correct usage includes may I have/may I speak with/yes, you may.

In this instance it should be "would you please send me".

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One could always word it this way:

"May I ask that you [do thus and so]..."

or even ...........

"May it please The Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, her humble servant requests that ..............."

Otherwise, though, will you please say "Will you...." and above all, don't forget "please."

Thank you.

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I think it's been pretty well covered as to why you normally would not use "may you..." to begin a question. However, in the imperative form, "may you..." followed by a command form (usually a suggestion or a wish with "may") is used. For example, "May you have a pleasant stay" is perfectly ok. Note, in this case, the sentence is not a question. By the way, in "May it please the Queen..." directly above, such use of "may" is also the imperative, not a request per se, even if followed by one.

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