Quick answer
"Can" is an auxiliary verb 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 "can" and "may" below.
can(
kahn
)
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. (used to indicate ability)
a. poder
I can run five miles in an hour.Puedo correr cinco millas en una hora.
b. saber
I can cook Italian food too.También sé cocinar comida italiana.
2. (used to ask permission)
a. poder
Can I go out with Jennifer on Friday night?¿Puedo salir con Jennifer el viernes por la noche?
3. (used to indicate possibility)
a. poder
If you like, you can have the salad with the dressing on the side.Si desea, puede pedir la ensalada con el aderezo al lado.
4. (with verbs of perception)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
I can't tell if it's going to rain or snow.No sé si va a llover o nevar.
I couldn't see because of the brightness of that light.No veía por culpa del resplandor de esa luz.
A noun is a word referring to a person, animal, place, thing, feeling or idea (e.g. man, dog, house).
5. (container)
a. la lata
(f) means that a noun is feminine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
There are about 140 calories in one can of soda.Una lata de refresco tiene unas 140 calorías.
b. el bote
(m) means that a noun is masculine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
Do you think one can of paint will be enough for the whole room?¿Crees que con un bote de pintura nos llega para toda la habitación?
6.
A word or phrase that is commonly used in conversational speech (e.g. skinny, grandma).
(colloquial)
(toilet)
Regionalism used in the United States
(United States)
a. el baño
(m) means that a noun is masculine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
I rushed to the can but it was occupied.Corrí al baño pero estaba ocupado.
7. (fuel container)
a. el bidón
(m) means that a noun is masculine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
Packing an empty gas can in your trunk is wise.Llevar un bidón de gasolina vacío en el maletero es inteligente.
8.
A very informal word or phrase used by a particular group or community as a substitute for standard language (e.g. joint, john).
(slang)
(prison)
Regionalism used in the United States
(United States)
a. la chirona
(f) means that a noun is feminine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
A very informal word or phrase used by a particular group or community as a substitute for standard language (e.g. joint, john).
(slang)
They threw him in the can for armed robbery.Lo tiraron a la chirona por robo armado.
9.
A word or phrase that is commonly used in conversational speech (e.g. skinny, grandma).
(colloquial)
(buttocks)
Regionalism used in the United States
(United States)
a. el culo
(m) means that a noun is masculine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
A word or phrase that is commonly used in conversational speech (e.g. skinny, grandma).
(colloquial)
Rob deserves a good kick in the can for that.Rob se merece una buena patada en el culo por eso.
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
10. (to preserve by sealing)
a. enlatar
She usually cans vegetables for the homeless every December.Suele enlatar verduras para la gente sin hogar cada diciembre.
11.
A very informal word or phrase used by a particular group or community as a substitute for standard language (e.g. joint, john).
(slang)
(to fire)
Regionalism used in the United States
(United States)
a. poner de patitas en la calle
A very informal word or phrase used by a particular group or community as a substitute for standard language (e.g. joint, john).
(slang)
My boss canned me for reading comics at work.El jefe me puso de patitas en la calle por leer cómics en el trabajo.
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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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