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  1. #1
    dihen is offline Member
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    Default the real meaning of "can I not [verb]"?

    What's the real meaning of "Can I not go?"? Is it closer to "Isn't it that I can go?", or "Do I have to go?/Am I allowed not to/to not go?"? And for "Why can he not go?", does it mean "Why can't he go?/Why is it that he can't go?", or "Why is he able not to/to not go?"? And one more, does "Can you not do this?" mean "Can't you do this?/Isn't it that you can do this", or "Please don't do this."?
    Last edited by dihen; 26-Dec-2005 at 14:10.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: the real meaning of "can I not [verb]"?

    'Can I not go?' is ambiguous. The person might want to go and is asking in the hope that they will be allowed to go. However, it could also mean that they don't want to go and are asking to be allowed not to go. It would dep[end on the context and the word stress. If the emphasis were on the word 'not', then I would say that the second meaning is more likely. If I saw the sentence without further context, I would take the second meaning as the more likely one.

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