Are you one of those students who just gets up and leaves class without asking for permission first?
This may seem completely natural in some countries, but in most English speaking cultures this would be considered rude and may even anger your teacher.
It’s not just the classroom where you might need to ask for permission. You might want to try something on in a shop or exchange something. Starting your sentence with ‘I want ’ may be met with a strange look, or you may end up being completely ignored.
If you are lucky enough to have a job and need to ask your boss for some time off, they will be more willing to give you the time off if you ask in the correct way. ‘Can I’, ‘Could I’ and ‘May I’ are the most common ways to ask for permission in informal or semi-formal situations and putting a ‘please’ at the end makes it sound more polite.
In formal situations, or if you really want to make a good impression, at immigration or speaking to the Gardaí (The Police) for example, we tend to use longer phrases. The more language you use, the more formal and polite you will sound and the more likely you are to get what you want.
Try out some of these phrases:
Can I go to the toilet?
Could I speak to you after class?
May I open the window?