I'm a call center agent. When I ask to transfer the call to the authorized person, which form should I use:

Can I speak to...?


Could I speak to...?


Only pedants or jokers would reject "Can I speak to..." or "Could I speak to...", any of these are acceptable, especially if you include the magic word ("Please").

While some people may find it overly formal, I would think "May I please speak to..." should be almost universally acceptable.

P.S. I remember a certain older gentleman who took great delight in torturing my young self with exchanges such as this:

Me: "Can I have a cookie?" Him: "Yes, you can, ..." (but doesn't get the cookie jar) Me: "... Could I have a cookie, then?" Him: "Yes, you could, ..." (still, no action) Me: "May I have a cookie, please?" Him: "Yes, you may." (finally, I get my cookie) :)

  • May is not much better in fetching you the cookie at all, it makes no difference. You "may" have and still may not -- Think again. Also, please see my comment at FumbleFingers under OP. – Kris Feb 20 '14 at 7:10
  • Sure it does, the word "may" is perfectly acceptable as a request. Also, it's more polite to ask "May I have a cookie?" rather than demand "Give me a cookie!" – Jeffrey Kemp Feb 20 '14 at 7:13
  • c.f. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/may "To have permission to, be allowed. Used in granting permission and in questions to make polite requests." – Jeffrey Kemp Feb 20 '14 at 7:16
  • Yes, Yes. Yet. :) – Kris Feb 20 '14 at 7:41
  • I guess the ultra-polite version would be something along the lines of, "My good sir, if it pleases you, could I trouble you to allow me the pleasure of speaking to ..." :) – Jeffrey Kemp Feb 20 '14 at 7:53

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