can/may regarding context

natyorlowski

Member
Spanish - Argentina
Hi! This comes from an essay I've had to write:
"In this essay, I will discuss two possible methods adults can/may take advantage of in order to become a good influence to youngsters"
Which is better, can or may? Considering the context is an essay (more or less formal), and that the narrator really wants adults to do what he/she says.
Thanks!
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    In this essay, I will discuss two possible methods adults can use to take advantage of in order to become a good influence on youngsters.
    In this essay, I will discuss two possible ways adults can become a good influence on youngsters.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    CR's rephrasing is of course the better route to go, and they sound idiomatic.

    Hi! This comes from an essay I've had to write:
    "In this essay, I will discuss two possible methods adults can/may take advantage of in order to become a good influence to youngsters"
    Which is better, can or may? Considering the context is an essay (more or less formal), and that the narrator really wants adults to do what he/she says.
    Thanks!
    As far as your sentence goes, nat, I would use "can", use a comma for clarity, and use "on youngsters" (like CR did).

    In this essay, I will discuss two possible methods adults can take advantage of, in order to become a good influence on youngsters.

    That's pretty good writing. It's correct for me.

    In CR's first sentence, I might choose "employ" instead of "use".
    In this essay, I will discuss two possible methods adults can employ/use to take advantage of ,* in order to become a good influence on youngsters.

    * I added the comma.

     

    natyorlowski

    Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    Thanks to both of you!
    Why wouldn't you use "may", perpend?
    (I've been thingking about deleting "in order", too)
    "I will discuss two possible methods adults can/may take advantage of to become a good influence on youngsters"
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Hard to explain, but "can" sounds more active and/or "proactive".

    "may" sounds a little less strong---sort of "these are eventually possible", if that makes sense.

    "can" makes more of a statement, to my ears.

    Your new sentence is/has ... improved!
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    May is giving readers permission to use the methods – that's not what you're doing, so I wouldn't use "may."
     
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