Consider the following two sentence:

Kann ich dich küssen?
Darf ich dich küssen?

Both verbs mean "can", so what's the difference between "dürfen" and "können"?

I've tried to make a search on dictionary, the two words seems to mean similarly like can and may, but I would like to know if they sound exactly like that.

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    "Can" vs "May". You likely "can" kiss him/her but if he/she don't like to, you're "not allowed to". – Em1 Apr 14 '14 at 9:26
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    I really dislike this question. You show no effort whatsoever. Please read this meta post for some more information. As the question is currently formulated, it does not provide enough context to give an answer tailored to your problems. – Vogel612 Apr 14 '14 at 12:14
  • @Vogel612: I'm very sorry that you really dislike this question. This sentence sounds very strong. I really dislike some really bad stuffs, not a question.. Consider that the perceived reality is strong subjective. You have interpreted my question as showing no effort, and you probably hate the lack of effort. But this tells much more on your psychology and interpretation of reality than on the question itself. It says that you are easily at judging and that you consider your judgement as true. When I posted this question I already found the answer, but my belief was that it could bring – Revious Apr 14 '14 at 12:39
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    @Revious I gave exactly that reason in the comment. This tells me 2 things. 1. You are quick to judge too, 2. You misunderstood the intention of my comment. This comment was not to judge you. I wanted to give you information on why I might vote to close. Quoting: "it does not provide enough context to give an answer tailored to your problems". Your other question shows some effort. You mention you looked at some dictionaries. Why not in this question too? I suggest you visit me in German Language Chat, there we can continue this discussion. – Vogel612 Apr 14 '14 at 12:46
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    @Revious well it would not be my opinion if I not considered it true ;) I probably have chosen too strong words to express my concerns. I apologize for that. Try to explicitly mention such thoughts in the questions you ask. That makes it easier for users to provide good answers and also leads to higher quality answers which will help you more than general answers, that are partly / largely a repetition of what you already know. – Vogel612 Apr 14 '14 at 12:56

"Darf ich" means "am I allowed to" or "may I", while "kann ich" means "can I".

Same as in English, the expression "kann ich" is often also used when asking for permission, but the main difference between the two is, that "kann ich" means to have the ability to do something, while "darf ich" only means to have the permission to do it.

Another example would be:

Darf ich nach Hause gehen? --> May I go home?

Kann ich nach Hause gehen? --> Can I go home?

Of course they both ask for permission in the context, but literally you can also do it without having permission. So literally you can although you may not, so "du kannst, obwohl du nicht darfst". Usually they are used interchangably in such questions, same as "may" and "can".

"Kann ich" is generally more informal, and "darf ich" asks more directly for one's personal permission, so in your example "Darf ich dich küssen" sounds more appropriate to me.

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Kann ich dich küssen?

Is translated to:

Am I able to kiss you?


Darf ich dich küssen?

is translated to:

Do I have the permission to kiss you?

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können refers to ability or possibility. dürfen refers to permission by another person. But in colloquial language können is often used instead of dürfen, especially when talking to persons of equal standing.

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  • I am sorry, but your answer adds no value to already given answers -1. Feel free to visit German Language Chat and discuss that matter with me there ;) – Vogel612 Apr 14 '14 at 12:29

In English you may hear people say "Can I" to ask for permission from someone to do something. But this is a common grammatical mistake that even native speakers of English make.

"Can" is about the ability to do something while "may" is about the permission to do that.

One can kiss anyone as long as they are physically capable of doing so. However one may not kiss anyone. They have to have the other party's consent.

In German it is similar.

Kann corresponds to Can
Darf corresponds to May

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