LINGUISTICS & CULTURE
|Data:||16/JAN/2017 10:22 PM|
|Assunto:||Using "can" to request permission|
I don´t see eye to eye with you about that, because it´s not a matter of teleology there. Even less the case, the event being with a child, as per the given example.
It´s perfectly normal to be the butt of sarcasm in English or use sarcasm and irony,
it´s part of the Englishness like they say (granted - more the Brit sort).
So, the teacher point didn´t mean to cause embarrassment to the student, only to teach him something about how to address someone higher in rank or social station.
Something that would be useful in the future.
Indeed the use of "may" doesn´t mean that the person will always say "yes" (as your wording suggested, albeit certainly not by design, it was the choice of words that got in the way.)
It´s just a technicality, because one asking or requesting something by using "may" will get a negative answer with a "cannot" in the sentence. That technicality is what Swam means.
Anyway, that doesn´t mean that by having knowledge of good manners (and of the English mores) the student address someone older or in a more formal context, by using "may". The one being asked will use "cannot" if he don´t feel like granting the wish/what was asked.
Example of Dialogue:
"May I go to the mall tonight?"
"No, you can´t go/cannot go." OR "Yes, you can go."
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