What is the difference between the two verb forms: "can" and "be going to".

closed as not a real question by Kris, waiwai933 Jan 25 '13 at 9:30

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  • 2
    They are largely unrelated. You might want to elaborate on your question by adding a couple of example sentences. – coleopterist Jan 25 '13 at 7:11
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    Can expresses ability or possibility; be going to expresses intention or inevitability. You might be interested in the site for English Language Learners which is currently in private beta. – Andrew Leach Jan 25 '13 at 7:35
  • I can swim - physical ability ; I am going to swim.- I am planning to go to swim. Check your dictionary or give more information about the situation you want to use these expressions. – speedyGonzales Jan 25 '13 at 7:35

Can is a modal verb whose main uses are to express possibility ('Roads can be dangerous when they’re wet’) and ability ('I’ve had a course of lessons, so I can speak English quite well now'). A third use is to express permission (‘You can go now').

Be going to is one of several ways English has of expressing the future. It is typically used to refer to things we intend to do in the near future.


"Can" is less definitive, and express the possibility, and often willingness to do something, but whether it is actually going to happen is not determined yet.

"Be going to" is expressing a more definitive action that is planned or determined to happen. This can be someone planning to do something, or an incident that is going to happen based on some conditions that are known to be true.

Example 1:


I can do this for you if you wish.

Be going to

I am going to do this for you because you really need it.

Example 2:


The Ice can break if you go out on that water. It is not verified to be safe.

Be going to

The ice are going to break if you go out on that water, because it is so thin that it is certain that it will not hold your weight.

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