Suppose, I am a student and I am at school. I need to meet the principal. I go to his office, but he is not in. Now I ask myself a question about his presence. Which one of the following is the most suitable form and how it is different from the other forms:

1. Where can he go? 
2. Where could he go? 
3. Where will he go?

closed as off-topic by Kristina Lopez, choster, FumbleFingers, Chenmunka, Hellion Nov 10 '14 at 18:48

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

  • "Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references" – Kristina Lopez, FumbleFingers, Hellion
  • "Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified." – choster, Chenmunka
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  • 1
    I think it's General Reference that the answer is none of the above. You'd say "Where can/could he be?" – FumbleFingers Nov 7 '14 at 17:30
  • Or "Where did he go" – Oldcat Nov 7 '14 at 19:20

A formal reaction might be:

Where could he be?

But a more normal reaction would probably be, as someone else has already answered,

Where has he gone?

If you're speaking English as a second language the best explanation for using the present perfect here is that it's a recent past action whose effects are being noticed now, i.e. he left a while ago and now I can't find him.

"Where is he going?" could conceivably make sense if you are particularly interested in the place he's heading to. It suggests you have an inkling where he might be going.

"Where will he go?" seems to suggest you're not sure where he's going. This might be more usual in the case of a lost, defenceless child ("Where will he go? What will he do?")

These are all subjective interpretations, though.


You want:

Where has he gone?

Your examples:

  1. Where can he go? = Where is he capable of going? Where is it possible for him to go?
  2. Where could he go? = same
  3. Where will he go? = Where, in the future, will he be going to? What are his future plans for destinations?

In this situation you don't really want to know where the principal has gone. You want to know when he'll be back. 'Do you know when he'll be back?'


Where can/could/might he be? would seem to be the answer

  • The question asks for a single form, not a combined one. That doesn't in and of itself invalidate your answer, but you should provide an explanation as to why; for additional guidance, I encourage you to review the help center. – choster Nov 7 '14 at 19:15

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