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Question Can/May/Could/Might I ask a question?

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,
each of the sentences above is grammatically correct.

But I believe "Might I ask a question" is very formal and rarely used.

How about the others? I think I have heard "Can I ask a question?"
and "May I ask a question?"

Do you ever say "Could I ask a question?"

Hirashin
 

mdchachi

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We are taught that "can I ask a question" is wrong because it literally means "am I able to ask a question" when you really mean "may I have your permission to ask a question." But it's very commonly used and nobody will think it's unnatural except perhaps an English teacher.
"Might I ask a question" sounds old-fashioned to me. Something I might hear in a TV drama but not in real life.
"May I ask a question" and "could I ask a question" both sound correct and natural (although "can I ask a question" is probably more common). I think "could" is probably more common in my experience.

Take a look at the links and you can see the counts from Google on these phrases.
 

Wayelder

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As a Canadian I'd say. "Excuse me, but I have a question..."

You see, we don't ask for permission...if they hold themselves out, we are entitled to an answer...
 

Psea206

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“Can I ask a question” and “Coukd I ask a question” are very common. Some grammarians say, as the moderator notes, that these forms are incorrect because they are using questions of ability and not asking permission. And yet, English commonly uses this approach. You may often see polite requests phrased as questions of ability, and while many people do it just out of habit, the origin seems to be an intentional indirection which allowed refused on the grounds not of denial, which would be confrontational, but of “impossibility”.

“Might” does the same really. If you want to get really arch and archaic and polite you could ask “Might one ask a question at this time?” :)

You may find this to be of interest:
Can, could and would for invitations, offers, requests and permission
 
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Psea206

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“Can I ask a question” and “Coukd I ask a question” are very common. Some grammarians say, as the moderator notes, that these forms are incorrect because they are using questions of ability and not asking permission. And yet, English commonly uses this approach. You may often see polite requests phrased as questions of ability, and while many people do into just out of habit, the origin seems to be an intentional indirection which allowed refused on the grounds not of denial, which would be confrontational, but of “impossibility”.

“Might” does the same really. If you want to get really arch and archaic and polite you could ask “Might one as a question at this time?” :)

Of interest: Can, could and would for invitations, offers, requests and permission
 
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