Which is right to say?

The coating may peel off. The coating may be peeled off.

The context is I mean to say that the coating of a product may come off due to a long-time use.

  • 3
    They mean different things. Both are grammatical.
    – Jim
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 1:57
  • To amplify Jim's comment: In "the coating may peel off", "may" is equivalent to "might". In "the coating may be peeled off", the "might" meaning is still possible, but a more likely meaning is that you have permission to peel off the coating. Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 2:15
  • If I mean to say that the coating of a product may come off due to a long-time use, which one is right?
    – Daniel S
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 2:16
  • 1
    Broadly, "peel off" means it might somehow fall off of its own accord while "be peeled off" means it might be scraped off, as by a fingernail or pen-knife. Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


They have different meanings.

Saying 'The coating may peel off' gives the coating agency. It will peel off by itself. Presumedly over time and/or with exposure to weather.

'The coating may be peeled off' means it is possible for someone/something to peel the coating off. It could also mean that the coating might have already been peeled off.

There are many ways to interpret the two sentences, beyond just the two meanings of may (is possible vs. might happen). Context is required for a definite reading.

  • Context: The coating of a mattress cover may come off (by itself) if the mattress is used for a long time.
    – Daniel S
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 3:03
  • In that case, only the first makes sense. The second means that it would be possible for someone to take the cover coating off, or that the cover coating has already been taken off.
    – tjp
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 3:12
  • Hey! It sounds like you're writing an information sheet for a product. If your company needs translation services, perhaps they should pay someone instead of soliciting free advice from well-meaning strangers.
    – tjp
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 3:17
  • I am the translator being paid for the job. In non-English speaking countries like where I am, translation companies often hire people who do not have high proficiency in English like myself. I am trying to learn as well as do the job. If I am told with certainty that this is ill-will, I'll stop posting such questions.
    – Daniel S
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 3:45
  • Please don't feel bad about asking, arguments could be made for either case. On the one hand, you're improving documentation for what sounds like a safety issue. On the other hand, your employer is trying to cheapskate their way out of paying for a job that a skilled worker could do. I personally feel you should keep asking these questions to improve your ability, but at the same time maybe you should feel a tiny bit bad about profiting from free labour :) ?
    – tjp
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 3:57

... he coating of a product may come off due to a long-time use

As in:

Due to prolonged use, the protective coating may peel or wear off'

  • This doesn't clarify the difference between the two phrases the OP suggested.
    – AndyT
    Commented May 25, 2018 at 8:51

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