Which is correct?

  1. Can you please fax me the document?
  2. May you please fax me the document?

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, tchrist, Nicole, Drew, ScotM Mar 25 '15 at 16:35

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I've often heard that one should avoid the use of "can" in a request as the word indicates the ability to do something rather than the possibility of doing something. In this case I would probably use

Could you please fax me the document?

  • Yeah, but that's just something elementary school teachers tell children. Incidentally, it's completely unfounded. Why we entrust the least qualified people to educate our youth I have no idea... – Parthian Shot Mar 24 '15 at 21:16
  • 3
    Yes, I think it is a bit obsessive, however, either way, I think the "could" sounds more polite. – Dog Lover Mar 24 '15 at 21:18

They are both correct. However "can" entails the issue of "possibility". If you ask someone "can you" it is as if you're wondering if they are capable of doing it. "May" is typically used for requests, but I will definitely side with WindowsDude7 right above! "Could" is definitely your best shot if you want to express politeness :)

  • 1
    But one wouldn't use may in this situation. It is used when asking permission. May you please fax me the document is not idiomatic. May I ask you to fax the document would work, and would be polite enough for one to dispense with please. – WS2 Mar 25 '15 at 0:08

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