Traditionally can is used to show:
 Ability:
An English person who can speak even one other language fluently is rare.
 Possibility:
Relapse can occur at any time.
May is normally used to show:
 Permission:
Candidates may enter for both examinations, if desired.
 Possibility:
It may cause pain, but often there are no symptoms.
Today can is increasingly used to show permission:
Mum, can I leave it?
Using can in this way is accepted as standard English, although many people still use may in more formal situations.
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