In the song "Me Neither" Brad Paisley sings:

"...would you like to dance Me neither I was just bein' polite Thank goodness my feet are much too tired I'm sure you're tired too, I can see an empty booth Would you like to maybe sit and talk a while Me neither"

Would I see an empty booth be correct in this sentence and what would be the difference?

  • 1
    It's really just a stylistic choice. If you want to micro-analyse, you could say including can implies that maybe not everyone else sees, or maybe that you yourself couldn't see whatever is important until the time of speaking. So it's a sort of attention-getting "intensifier". Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 16:52

3 Answers 3


The Alethic (or 'able to') sense of can, has -- predictably for a modal -- lots of strange grammar.

In this situation, specifically, Subj can Verb means the same as Subj Verb.

This is true of sense verbs (e.g, see, hear, feel, sense, smell, taste). With most sensations, if you can sense something, at some place and time, then you are in fact sensing it, there and then.

The only other verb I know of that this is true of is speak, in the sense of speak a language.
For some reason, the generic verb phrase speak Spanish in

  • They speak Spanish.

without further qualification -- like at home -- is taken to mean the same thing as

  • They can speak Spanish.
  • 1
    I think in some contexts understand works the same as can in this respect (unsurprisingly, given the semantic overlap). So "I [can] understand his lectures" can apply to past, present, and/or future lectures, with or without can. Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 19:06
  • Yeah, understand works there; I think the closer it gets to a human sensation, the more likely it is to work that way. Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 19:08

To me both are grammatically correct. However, the main difference lies in their certainty. One of them is more likely to happen than the other. What I'm saying is that if you use "I can see" it means that by this moment, there's an empty both, but perhaps there won't be none later.

On the other hand if you say "I see" it's more common because you can see for instance the sun rising everyday, you see that there many booths but maybe none of them is empty. Yet you're still seeing them.


The word can does not add any significant semantic element to the line, and isn't more or less correct. But the purpose off adding that word is simply the meter of the song. Without it, the line is one syllable too short.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.