I really want to know the difference between "Do you speak English?" and "Can you speak English?" are they have same meaning? Thanks.
I'd prefer 'Do you...?' instead of 'Can you...?'. It just sounds more polite.
[not a teacher]
I suppose one could argue that "can" more clearly suggests ability, while "do" indicates the act of speaking, whatever the level may be. But again I would think that one does if one can, at whatever level and frequency.
The opinions of others are welcome.
Last edited by 2006; 08-Jul-2010 at 07:55.
What's the context?
Let's suppose A and B both speak fluent English and a bit of Spanish, and each knows this. B is not as proficient.
A: Tengo un motocicleta azul.
B: Can you speak English?
No, "Do you speak English?" does not mean the same.
Even as questions, they don't always have the same meaning. For example, my Japanese wife gets asked, "Do you speak to your children in English or Japanese?" but not "Can you ...?"
But in the context in which the question is most likely to be asked - being in a country where English isn't the language spoken - I don't see much difference. I'm lost on the streets of, say, Cairo, I approach someone and I ask:
'Do you speak English?'
'Can you speak English?'
Is there a difference? Hmm. Beats me if there is.