I would like translate a Portuguese phrase into English:

Esta técnica é bem poderosa, podendo ser extendida para várias outras questões.

In English I got:

This technique is very powerful and can be extended to several other questions.

Podendo is the gerund, in Portuguese, of the verb poder (can, in English). It looks like there's no gerund for the verb can, in English. Is this correct? What's the suggestion to translate this phrase?


4 Answers 4


First, I don't think you're actually looking for a gerund. In English, a gerund refers to using a verb as a noun, and since you don't have another conjugated verb in the last phrase, I think you're actually looking for a participle (and wikipedia tells me in Portuguese, gerúndio refers to an adverbial participle, so that makes sense)

Now, as DeepYellow correctly states, can, when used as a modal verb has no gerund/participle form (the word canning exists, but it refers to the verb can when used to mean putting things in cans for storage, etc.) If such a form is needed, we normally shift from using the modal can to the phrase to be able which has a participle form being able, so you could go with:

This technique is very powerful, being able to be extended to several other questions.

I believe this lies a little closer to your original sentence (assuming my poor Portuguese skills haven't failed me) in that it indicates that the fact that is powerful is somewhat derived from being able to be extended rather your original translation which indicates that it is independently powerful and also can be extended. However, this sounds a little disfluent, so I might prefer something like:

This technique is very powerful as it can be extended to several other questions

This technique is very powerful due to being extensible to several other questions.

  • Hum. Thx @Dusty about the explanation. Very pertinent.
    – GarouDan
    Nov 4, 2011 at 15:16
  • 2
    I really like the word "disfluent." Excellent answer! Nov 4, 2011 at 21:16

You are correct, there is no gerund for can. Can, as used here, is an auxiliary verb, and English doesn't provide gerund forms for auxiliary verbs.

The translation that you received seems (surprisingly) good.

  • Hum, but what we can say about What are you doing? "doing" is in gerund. Looks like in this phrase doing isn't a auxiliar verb, is just commom verb. But the question is if do can be a commom verb,the verb can couldn't too? And then, admit gerund?
    – GarouDan
    Nov 4, 2011 at 14:31
  • @GarouDan, but in that phrase "do" is not an auxiliary verb. Nov 4, 2011 at 14:35
  • Yes, @DeepYellow, but take a look, my question is if the verb do isn't a auxiliar verb in that phrase and it can admit doing, the verb can can't admit this form too? In some strange phrase? But the question was solved, it's just a curiosity =)
    – GarouDan
    Nov 4, 2011 at 14:46
  • @GarouDan, Sorry, you're right, I misread your comment. If you could use "can" as an action it would (presumably) have a gerund form when used that way. But of course that's hypothetical, unless you're talking about "canning" fruit. :-) Nov 4, 2011 at 14:51
  • 2
    Just to reinforce that, all modal auxiliary verbs are invariable: they have only one form. Where infinitive or participial forms of 'can' are needed, 'be able' is used instead, particularly in expressing future ability. I agree with Dusty that 'being able to be extended' seems the closest to the Portuguese, but, although grammatical, it is unlikely in the example given. Nov 4, 2011 at 15:46

Being able could express the meaning that a gerund form of can would.


If you want a gerund

"This technique is very powerful and is capable of being extended to several other questions."

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