Make a point of

rightnow

Senior Member
Spanish
'You can borrow my car if you like' is a more gracious offer than 'You may borrow it'; the first presumes the granting of permission, while the second makes a point of it.
What does "make a point of it" exactly mean here?
 
  • rightnow

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    It calls attention to it, emphasises it.
    Its context goes on saying "Students can take no more than three courses allows the possibility that a student who is unusually capable may take more, whereas Students may take no more than three courses does not."
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Generations of grammarians and schoolteachers have insisted that can should be used only to express the capacity to do something, and that ...
    I don't know what generations means in a modern day context, but in that context their 'insistence' is irrelevant.
    'Can' is widely used to give and ask permission, while 'may' is very formal, and almost archaic.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree that, in British English at least, may is much less likely to be used than can, whatever the nuance. But when may is used, it’s nearly always to indicate or emphasise permission, or the lack of it — as in: Students may take no more than three courses (which would be understood as Students are not permitted to take more than three courses).
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't know what 'make a point of it [granting permission]' might mean. The absence of context doesn't help. Both 'can' and 'may' can be used to grant permission, but which is chosen could depend on how permission has been requested.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I also don’t see the can version of the OP example as “gracious”. On the contrary, it sounds a bit dismissive/offhand.
     

    rightnow

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I agree that, in British English at least, may is much less likely to be used than can, whatever the nuance

    I don't know what 'make a point of it [granting permission]' might mean.


    I find the logic of the "for this reason" clause contradictory though:
    The heightened formality of may sometimes highlights the speaker's role in giving permission.
    You may leave the room when you are finished implies that permission is given by the speaker.
    You can leave the room when you are finished implies that permission is part of a rule or policy rather than a decision on the speaker's part.

    For this reason, may sees considerable use in official announcements: Students may pick up the application forms tomorrow. The American Heritage Dictionary entry: can
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    What do you think it contradicts? If may is acknowledged to imply the official granting of permission, why wouldn’t it be the verb of choice in official documents or announcements in which this actually is the case?
     

    rightnow

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    What do you think it contradicts? If may is acknowledged to imply the official granting of permission, why wouldn’t it be the verb of choice in official documents or announcements in which this actually is the case?
    CAN when it's part of a rule or policy , the latter being "a general rule", as the one applying for every single student of the class.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    :confused: It’s not about who the rule is for, but who it’s from. This is the nuance:

    You can cycle on the paths = This is allowed; it’s not prohibited
    You may cycle on the paths = I’m personally granting you permission to do this
     

    rightnow

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    :confused: It’s not about who the rule is for, but who it’s from. This is the nuance:

    You can cycle on the paths = This is allowed; it’s not prohibited

    You can cycle = you are able to, even though you may not because/if it is not allowed:
    Generations of grammarians and schoolteachers have insisted that can should be used only to express the capacity to do something, and that may must be used to express permission can的用法和例句,包括can常用短语解释和词组意思翻译,同义词【澳典网ODict.Net】
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You’re now conflating two different uses of can. Why? That’s irrelevant to the difference between can and may in the sense of permission.

    May can also indicate possibility (it may/might rain), but it never means physical or mental ability in the sense in which can does.
     

    rightnow

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    make a point of = emphasise

    More context I forgot to add:
    Like may, can can also be used to indicate what is possible: It may rain this afternoon. Bone spurs can be very painful. In this use, both often have personal subjects: You may be right
    why highlight all of a sudden the possibility of personal subjects though?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I’ve found that in this source: Cannions

    But shouldn’t it be the other way round? Like can, may can also be used for possibility – for example, “it may rain”.
     

    Luca Tufo

    Senior Member
    Italian
    :confused: It’s not about who the rule is for, but who it’s from. This is the nuance:

    You can cycle on the paths = This is allowed; it’s not prohibited
    You may cycle on the paths = I’m personally granting you permission to do this

    is this usage of may still common?
    I've always heard may with the same meaning as might. I may go there = I might go there
    I guess this new meaning might be a bit more formal.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    is this usage of may still common?
    I've always heard may with the same meaning as might. I may go there = I might go there
    I guess this new meaning might be a bit more formal.
    Those are not examples relating to permission. They’re about possibility/options/uncertainty. Don’t confuse the different uses. But yes, they’re still very much in use.

    I might go into town tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain. On the other hand, I may just pop over the road to visit my Gran.​
     

    Luca Tufo

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Those are not examples relating to permission. They’re about possibility/options/uncertainty. Don’t confuse the different uses. But yes, they’re still very much in use.

    I might go into town tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain. On the other hand, I may just pop over the road to visit my Gran.​
    So the construction you've mentioned only works with he/she/they/you, not me when giving someone permission.
    Example
    He may go there=he has my permission


    Does this work?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    What construction? I don’t really understand what you’re asking.

    As you know, the word may is used in different ways:
    • to indicate permission to do or be something
    (Customers may smoke in the designated areas only);​
    • to express possibility, as an alternative to might
    (If you go outside for a smoke, I may/might come with you).​
    It is therefore possible for the same sentence using may to be ambiguous, but “He may go there” is not a good example of that, if only because it’s not a likely thing to say. As always, even with a potentially ambiguous statement, the context should make the intended meaning clear.

    She may go home now. No charges are being brought against her, so she’s free to leave.​
    She may go home now. Or she may stay on for another week. She hasn’t decided yet.​
     
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