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Quick answer
"Be able to" is a transitive verb phrase which is often translated as "poder", and "may" is an auxiliary verb which is also often translated as "poder". Learn more about the difference between "be able to" and "may" below.
be able to(
bi
 
ey
-
buhl
 
tu
)
A transitive verb phrase is a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or other particle and requires a direct object (e.g. Take out the trash.).
transitive verb phrase
1. (to be capable of)
a. poder
I am able to meet next Monday at nine in the morning. Is that convenient?Puedo reunirme el lunes que viene a las nueve de la mañana. ¿Le es conveniente?
b. ser capaz de
He was not able to walk after the accident.No era capaz de caminar después del accidente.
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may(
mey
)
An auxiliary verb, or helper verb, is a conjugated verb that comes before a main verb and determines the main verb's tense, mood, or aspect (e.g. I have gone.).
1. (when asking permission)
a. poder
I’d like to make a suggestion, if I may.Quisiera hacer una sugerencia, si me lo permites.
May I leave the table? - No, you may not.¿Puedo levantarme de la mesa? - No, no puedes.
2. (when indicating possibility)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
She may have decided to go to the movies by herself.A lo mejor decidió ir al cine sola.
We may be able to find a replacement for you so you can take off.Puede que podamos encontrar a alguien que te sustituya para que puedas tener el día libre.
3. (when wishing or expressing purpose)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
May you both be very happy!¡Que sean muy felices!
We want to preserve this landscape so that it may be enjoyed by future generations.Queremos conservar este paisaje para que las generaciones venideras lo disfruten.
4. (when conceding or justifying something)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
I may not be rich, but I’m happy.No seré rica, pero soy feliz.
You may not like the taste of the cough syrup, but you have to take it.Puede que no te guste el sabor del jarabe para la tos, pero hay que tomarlo.
May
A proper noun refers to the name of a person, place, or thing.
proper noun
5. (month)
a. mayo
My birthday is at the end of May.MI cumpleaños es a finales de mayo.
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