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I've been told by a person that the sentence below is incorrect grammatically and it does not make any sense. Specifically, that person told me that the part ''could do'' is wrong. ''Could do'', for him, should rather be replaced by ''had'' to make sense.

Pretending to be a beggar on the street was the only way such a shameless individual as you could do.

As I'm not a native speaker, I'm not sure whether this sentence is correct or not grammatically? Therefore, I'd like to ask some native speaker here about whether the part ''could do'' is correct and whether the whole sentence is correct ? thanks

  • This sentences doesn't make any sense. Could do what? And replacing "could do" with "had" makes significantly less sense. – KumaAra Oct 27 '17 at 6:50
  • Could do what ? Could PRETEND. ''Do'' in ''Could do'' here corresponds to ''to pretend'', a verb form of pretending. What's wrong with could do? – terbon Oct 27 '17 at 7:33
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If you replace way by thing, then your sentence is grammatical and makes sense:

Pretending to be a beggar on the street was the only thing such a shameless individual as you could do.

This works because you can do things but you cannot do ways. For example,

  • Begging was the only thing (that) she could do.

  • ?Begging was the only way (that) she could do.

However, you can have ways. So your friend's suggestion:

Pretending to be a beggar on the street was the only way such a shameless individual as you had

is grammatical and makes sense

  • Or, in the original sentence, replace do with act. – AmE speaker Oct 27 '17 at 9:27
  • Hmmm. Possibly. However, I think what the author is aiming for might be something like "Pretending to be a beggar on the street was a thing (that) only such a shameless individual as you could do." I think maybe the was/thing confusion is coming about because the OP is thinking about behaviour or ways of behaving, perhaps. Of course, in English, you can't do a behaviour ... (or do a way either) :) – Araucaria Oct 27 '17 at 9:34
  • @Araucaria. Is your Hmmm. Possibly. directed at my answer or Clare's comment? Anyway, the original sentence is somewhat strangely expressed (the thing/way issue notwithstanding). Your repositioning of only makes a much more natural sentence - if this is the OP's intended meaning. – Shoe Oct 27 '17 at 9:51
  • @Shoe It was for you :) – Araucaria Oct 27 '17 at 9:57
  • @Araucaria. Hmmm! Which part of my answer is the possibly directed at? :) – Shoe Oct 27 '17 at 10:05
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I'm a native speaker and I think that these options would work for you:

Pretending to be a beggar on the street is the only option for a shameless individual, such as yourself.

or

The best that a shameless individual, such as yourself, could do is pretend to be a beggar on the street.

The problem initially is the use of "way." You need a preposition after "way" in order to make a sentence that makes sense. For example:

"Pretending to be a beggar on the street was the only way, for such a shameless individual as you."

In this sentence "way" means: the method, style, or manner of doing something.

Additionally, "could do" doesn't work with the sentence.

"You could do better next time," or "was it the best that you could do?" are correct ways of using "could do."

You also need an adjective that describes "could do." For example, "It was the best that I could do."

Sorry if this is confusing, I'm not a teacher so I don't have the best answer but here is a website that might be able to help you:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/verbs/modal-verbs/can-or-could

protected by tchrist Apr 6 '18 at 12:33

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