Can/Might/May I help you?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by casino, Feb 4, 2008.

  1. casino Senior Member

    Could you tell me the difference between "May I help you?" and "How may I help you?"?

  2. cropje_jnr

    cropje_jnr Senior Member

    Canberra, Australia
    English - Australia
    May I help you? = This is more general, akin to "Am I able to help you (in any way)?" It could be answered with a simple "yes."

    How may I help you? = This is more specific. "In what way can I help you?" You cannot answer by merely saying "yes"; you must specify how the person can help you.
  3. casino Senior Member

    Thank you, cropje jnr.

  4. cfu507

    cfu507 Senior Member

    Hi, I learned that "Might I help you?" is a way to offer help when you are hesitate. I wonder if people realy offer that way because I had never come across with that expression before.
  5. mtmjr

    mtmjr Senior Member

    California/Ohio (US)
    English (US)
    It is a way of offering assistance; I'm not so sure it expresses hesitance however. No, people do not use this expression anymore, at least not in my experience. Certainly it is never used among young people. Such an expression sounds antiquated and perhaps a bit affected to me.
  6. Categenesis Member

    Hong Kong
    I don't know... my butler uses it all the time... followed by "master." :D

  7. by45 New Member


    sometimes I see some foreigners try to find the way on the street. whenever i see them I feel like to ask them if they need help.

    I'm curious if I can say "Can I help you??" to them for this situation.

    "Do you need help?" or "Can I help you?" or both of them are possible to use??

    Thanks in advance!
  8. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Moderator Note:
    I've merged these very similar threads.
  9. Categenesis Member

    Hong Kong
    I rather like "Can I help you?" (rather than "May I help you?" which you didn't ask about) because after I hear their problem, I find that I often can't... so the "to be able to" aspect of "can" is definitely there for me.

    "Do you need help?" is what I might ask someone who looked ill, or who was an apparent victim of someone's physical or verbal abuse.

  10. by45 New Member

    Thanks a lot!!!! :)
  11. Lecword Senior Member


    Hello everybody

    Could we aswer the question "How may/can I help you?" by saying "Yes, please"? For example when offering help in a shop?

    Many thanks
  12. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    How may I help you?
    (You tell the person what assistance you need.)

    Can/May I help you?
    Yes, please.
    or Yes, you can. (Then you tell the person what assistance you need.)

    You can't say "Yes, please" to "How may I help you?" because you're being asked "in what way can I help you?" so your answer must specifically deal with the "way in which they can help."

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