Mystery Writers Forum

General Discussion and News => Chat => Topic started by: penny on November 28, 2007, 01:09:42 PM

Title: "Can I have you?"
Post by: penny on November 28, 2007, 01:09:42 PM
Hi friends,

Do you say that in English when you want to speak to someone? It sounds wrong to me, and I said so to the woman (Not a native English speaker) who said it. I entered the classroom where she was teaching, to call a girl who needed some extra help with her English reading. The teacher said (in English, because I'm an English teacher): "Can I have you?" meaning for the girl to come over.
It's a literal translation from Hebrew and I told her I don't think it's correct English form.

What is?

Title: Re: "Can I have you?"
Post by: JIM DOHERTY on November 28, 2007, 01:17:03 PM

It probably depends on the English-speaking country, depending on whether it's the UK, Australia, Canada, etc.

As a general rule, though, it would probably be "Can you come over here, please?" anywhere English is spoken.

"Having" someone has a sexual connotation.
Title: Re: "Can I have you?"
Post by: Elena on November 28, 2007, 04:14:27 PM

Jim definitely hit it on the nose.  To add to the pedantic fun - one might want to say Would instead of 'can'.  Can had more of  a sense of 'are you able to' rather than 'please comply'.  However, in today's world the distinction is no longer a concern.  Can, may, and would, are generally used as synonyms.

When I was young, which is getting to be longer and longer ago, asking "Can I have a cookie."  would result in a query about one's physical health.  The desired query was "May I have a cookie."  which was the proper way to ask permission.

In English mysteries set in boarding schools, especially prior to WWI, the head master was commonly quoted at saying, "May I see you."  This did not bode well for whoever was being invited.  That's the closest example of a similar usage I can think of.

Does Hebrew distinguish between 'can' and 'may'?

Title: Re: "Can I have you?"
Post by: penny on November 28, 2007, 04:54:43 PM
Thank you, Jim and Elena!

Elena, can and may are two entirely different verbs in Hebrew and are used completely differently in sentences. They cannot be used interchangeably in a sentence structure-wise either.

The English "may" is not taught here much. Usually "can" is used also for asking for permission. But I taught my little students, who know  no English at all, to ask "May I go out?" when they absolutely must use the little girls' room. It's a real tongue-twister for them!

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