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90 votes
Accepted

Why can't the word "can" be used in future tense (will can)?

This is a good example of the problems caused by lying to students in saying that will is "The Future Tense". There is no future tense in English. There is likewise no perfect tense, no progressive ...
John Lawler's user avatar
74 votes
Accepted

"Can I" vs "May I" in restaurant setting when ordering

I believe 'can' is more appropriate in a restaurant. Firstly it is quite possible that you cannot have something that is on the menu because it is no longer available. Asking if you 'can' have the ...
Eric Nolan's user avatar
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69 votes

"Can I" vs "May I" in restaurant setting when ordering

In the dilemma "may" vs. "can" and which form is preferable, it depends on how old the speaker is, where they live and which dialect of English they speak. There is an age-old debate that can in ...
Mari-Lou A's user avatar
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66 votes
Accepted

Can "would" be used twice in an English conditional sentence and still be grammatical?

Use of deontic would in the protasis and epistemic would in the apodosis: “If you would all PLEASE take your seats, we would actually be able to get started on time for once.” Non-native speakers ...
tchrist's user avatar
  • 136k
47 votes

Can "would" be used twice in an English conditional sentence and still be grammatical?

I can think of five hundred ways to destroy him: how I would would not be a problem. Disclaimer: Not a native speaker.
jick's user avatar
  • 590
33 votes

Can "would" be used twice in an English conditional sentence and still be grammatical?

"Would you ever use would twice in a sentence?" "I would, but would you?" The first is mentioned but you could count it as a use. In the second case you could omit the but and have the two words ...
Chris H's user avatar
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30 votes
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The usage of "can not" vs. "cannot" in mathematics

Full disclosure, I know Doug West (he’s my Ph.D. advisor’s Ph.D. advisor), so I am probably more inclined to give him credit. But it’s pretty obvious in context that he’s not being curmudgeonly and ...
PaulTanenbaum's user avatar
23 votes

Why can't I use a regular modal verb here?

This question appears to derive from the 'Entry Test' at the beginning of Diana Hopkins with Pauline Cullen, Cambridge Grammar for IELTS, 2007, and the answer from the 'Key' on page 223. You are ...
StoneyB on hiatus's user avatar
23 votes
Accepted

If saying 'Why can't I ...?' is correct, would 'Why cannot I ...?' be technically correct?

When you remove the contraction, you need to say: Why can I not...? just like with the auxiliaries do or have Why do you not continue...?, Why have you not completed the task? YourDictionary ...
fev's user avatar
  • 34.5k
21 votes

Why can't the word "can" be used in future tense (will can)?

Per Wikipedia, can is a "defective verb"... For example, can lacks an infinitive, future tense, participle, imperative, and gerund. The missing parts of speech are instead supplied by using the ...
FumbleFingers's user avatar
18 votes

The usage of "can not" vs. "cannot" in mathematics

The good professor is saying that "can not be" is ambiguous. "X can not be 8" could mean "it is possible for X not to be 8" which then means, by extension, that it is ...
TimR's user avatar
  • 2,999
17 votes

Can "would" be used twice in an English conditional sentence and still be grammatical?

George and Ira Gershwin have a great example for you: He'll build a little home That's meant for two, From which I'll never roam, Who would, would you? And so all else above I'm dreaming of the man I ...
KarlG's user avatar
  • 28.2k
16 votes

"Can I" vs "May I" in restaurant setting when ordering

Beyond Grammar and Into the Social Codes If you have ever taught English, you might know that "May I have x" is a polite form. This really is not about grammar. It's about how certain expressions are ...
Lambie's user avatar
  • 15.2k
16 votes

The usage of "can not" vs. "cannot" in mathematics

EnglishClub has a balanced overview: People often ask me whether they should write cannot (1 word) or can not (2 words). Cannot is a contraction of can not. In 'British English' cannot is the normal ...
Edwin Ashworth's user avatar
13 votes

Why can't the word "can" be used in future tense (will can)?

The reason is that standard English prohibits the use of double modals, which 'can' and 'will' both are, as addressed in this post. Some dialects, like my own, incorporate double modals like 'might ...
EenBeetje's user avatar
  • 384
12 votes

The usage of "can not" vs. "cannot" in mathematics

Can not is ambiguous. Conveniently, it has an alternative spelling cannot which corresponds to the more common of the two possible meanings. It's wrong though to say that this means can not can only ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 83.4k
12 votes

The usage of "can not" vs. "cannot" in mathematics

Thanks to Paul Tanenbaum for alerting me to this discussion. In response to these comments, I have modified this item on my grammar page. It now reads: It appears that some writers of English now ...
Douglas West's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

Can the continuous form be combined with the passive voice?

The first site is wrong: He has been being treated for imbecility for almost twenty years and has not yet recovered his wits. In 2007 he had been being treated for imbecility for ten years and had ...
StoneyB on hiatus's user avatar
11 votes

Modal "will can"

The non-standard double modal construction — although here you're talking about a periphastic future where can functions as the infinitive — is a feature of everyday speech in the North of England, ...
KarlG's user avatar
  • 28.2k
10 votes

"Can I" vs "May I" in restaurant setting when ordering

No Practical Difference In the Pacific Northwest region of the US (to include northern Idaho, eastern and western Washington, and central Oregon), it is commonly acceptable to order food in a variety ...
Kharmageddon's user avatar
10 votes

Why can't the word "can" be used in future tense (will can)?

Can is part of the set of verbs called the 'Preterite-present' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_verb#Preterite-presents). This essentially means that the form can was originally a past tense ...
Henri's user avatar
  • 101
9 votes
Accepted

Another one on the past tense of must have

Both sentences are grammatical, but they mean different things. While sentence 1 is sure about the number of times the request was made, your sentence 2 approximates the number of times "I had to ...
fev's user avatar
  • 34.5k
8 votes

When should we use "can", "could", "will", "would"?

OK, piece by piece. Most people say I wish I could, I wish you would. Can we use I wish I can, I wish you will? No. *I wish I can and *I wish you will are both ungrammatical sentences. As pointed ...
John Lawler's user avatar
8 votes

Can "would" be used twice in an English conditional sentence and still be grammatical?

You can use "would" twice in a sentence with no intervening words! Example: One does not ask, as Americans would: “Would you like something to drink?,” because social etiquette would require the ...
DavidPostill's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

The usage of the modal verb "must be"

These two people must be freelancers working hard on their computers. is awkward but means It is highly likely that these two people are freelancers. They are working hard on their computers. The ...
Edwin Ashworth's user avatar
7 votes

"Don't mind what she does tomorrow" but not "Don't know what she does tomorrow" Why?

The major difference between the predicates distinguished here with Wh-clause complements is that not know belongs to a class of predicates that takes a Disjunctive Wh-clause complement whereas not ...
John Lawler's user avatar
7 votes

"Can I" vs "May I" in restaurant setting when ordering

There's an element of hypercorrection in some of this: using forms which are perceived to be "better" in some social way, even to the point of grammatical incorrectness or semantic inappropriateness. ...
CCTO's user avatar
  • 735
6 votes

Is use of "shall" archaic?

In my (BrE*) speech "shall" is very much alive. In normal speech I say "I'll", but if I have reason to expand it, I'm as likely to say "I shall go" as "I will go". And in a question, "Shall I" is ...
Colin Fine's user avatar
  • 77.4k
6 votes

Can "would" be used twice in an English conditional sentence and still be grammatical?

I realize the question is about conditionals. However, you can have "would" directly after "would" if you have a noun phrase ending with "would" that serves as the subject of your sentence, e.g.: He ...
Areté's user avatar
  • 61
6 votes

"Can I" vs "May I" in restaurant setting when ordering

I have always been under the impression that "may" was the more polite word to use when ordering food. At a fast food place I suppose it isn't too big of a deal, but if I were taking an order I would ...
Sabrina's user avatar
  • 61

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