when should I use the following sentence. I am little bit confused:

  1. "May I help you?"
  2. "What can I do for you?"

What is the difference between above two sentence and when I can use them?

Please explain.

1 Answer 1


The first implies that you are offering help to someone and want to know if he would allow you to do so. The second implies that the person is looking for something/help and you want to know if you can do something for him. It could be used in situations where you go to your boss's office for something and he may simply say if he can do something for you. They could be used for the same thing in certain situations but they don't mean the same thing.

  • There's also different kinds of help. For instance a cashier at a fast-food restaurant would ask, "Can I help you" but would probably never ask, "What can I do for you" unless it was clear to the cashier that the person didn't want their order taken.
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 5:54

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