Does the sentence "Can I not try that?" mean:

  1. I want to try that but I'm not allowed to
  2. I don't want to try that
  • 1
    It's ambiguous. But neither of your interpretations are likely. I would say it more probably means one of two things: (1) Am I allowed to try that? (2) Am I capable of trying that? Or, in its negative phrasing, Are you saying I'm not (allowed / able) to try that? – Jason Bassford Jan 13 at 3:48

"Can I try that?" would be a simple question. "Am I allowed to try to do something?" Modifying try with "not" implies a slight fear that permitting the action might violate a formal or informal rule, or that the requester might lack the ability to successfully perform the action.

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