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Recently, my children have been saying, "Can I go with?". It is honestly driving me crazy. I believe that the question should be posed as, "May I go with you?". So which sentence is correct?

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  • How old are your children?
    – rogermue
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 2:15
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  • Children are in a process of learning language. It shouldn't "drive you crazy" that children don't speak like adults. And I think it takes some time till children grasp the use of "may".
    – rogermue
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 4:31
  • Correct those children, Dee! We can all recall the may/can dilemma from our own childhoods.
    – Egox
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 13:54
  • Which is more important to you, the 'with' at the end it the 'may/can' switch?
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 14:14

3 Answers 3

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If your children are younger than 5, it may just be a learning error.

But 'to go with', having no object for 'with', is a phrasal verb that is special to the Midwest. It is not used in formal speech or writing, but is common in informal speech.

If it's what the other kids say then that's how they talk. There's nothing to correct, it's the local dialect so to speak.

When I first heard it, it was very jarring. I've gotten used to it but can't bring myself to say it fluently.

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"Can I go with" is "Can I go with you", with the "you" elided. It's not an unusual manner of casual speech -- one might say, eg, "I'm going to the store. Do you want to come with?"

It is not exactly the Queen's English, but it's reasonably idiomatic. I would not regard it as "incorrect".

One may also, of course, pick on the use of the word "can" vs "may". Learning the subtleties of when to use "can" and when to use "may" is not easy or instantaneous, and it's not at all unusual for children make this error. This may take some gentile guidance, keeping in mind that even many adults do not have this down pat.

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  • I wouldn't say it is an error. "Can" can express ability and possibility.
    – rogermue
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 4:34
  • @rogermue - But the proper use of "may" vs "can" is considered part of polite speech, similar to placing yourself last in a list.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 12:57
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Can I go with?

is incomplete. It has a preposition (with) but no object [of the preposition].

Can I go with you?

contains an object of the preposition: "you."

Furthermore, can inquires about the ability of performing a task. May requests the permission to perform a task.

May I go with you?

is by far the best sentence.

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