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Thread: Can't...

  1. Volcano1985's Avatar
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    #1

    Can't...

    "I can't know what you want exactly."

    Using the "can't" here is wrong or doesn't make sense ?

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    #2

    Re: Can't...

    Hello Volcano

    It probably means "it isn't possible for me to know exactly what you mean".

    Do you have more context?

    MrP

  2. curmudgeon's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Can't...

    Quote Originally Posted by Volcano1985 View Post
    "I can't know what you want exactly."

    Using the "can't" here is wrong or doesn't make sense ?

    It is wrong. I don't exactly know what you want.

    I can't be expected to know exactly what you want.

    I can't possibly know exactly what you want.

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    #4

    Re: Can't...

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    Hello Volcano
    It probably means "it isn't possible for me to know exactly what you mean".
    Do you have more context?
    MrP
    (Sorry, I meant:

    It probably means "it isn't possible for me to know exactly what you want".

    MrP)

  3. Harry Smith's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Can't...

    Quote Originally Posted by Volcano1985 View Post
    "I can't know what you want exactly."

    Using the "can't" here is wrong or doesn't make sense ?
    It doesn't make sense. Maybe it's direct translation from your native language. Maybe you want to say "I can't understand what you exactly want" and another variant without "can't": I don't know what you want exactly.

  4. Volcano1985's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Can't...

    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Smith View Post
    It doesn't make sense. Maybe it's direct translation from your native language. Maybe you want to say "I can't understand what you exactly want" and another variant without "can't": I don't know what you want exactly.
    Yes its my native language translation.I should use "can't" if i want to give same meaning but "don't" is suitable too.

  5. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #7

    Re: Can't...

    Quote Originally Posted by Volcano1985 View Post
    "I can't know what you want exactly."

    Using the "can't" here is wrong or doesn't make sense ?
    Volcano, if you change the verb from know to understand, then, yes, your assumption is correct. Both can't and don't work here:

    Ex: I can't understand what you want, exactly.
    Ex: I don't understand what you want, exactly.

    They make sense.

    The difference in meaning is very slight for some speakers.

    - "can't understand" could mean, the person's pronunication or speech is making it difficult for you to make out what they are saying.

    - "don't understand" could mean, the person's pronunciation and speech are clear, but you are having difficulty understanding their idea.

    All the best.

  6. Volcano1985's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Can't...

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    Volcano, if you change the verb from know to understand, then, yes, your assumption is correct. Both can't and don't work here:

    Ex: I can't understand what you want, exactly.
    Ex: I don't understand what you want, exactly.

    All the best.
    I have to use "know" here not "understand"

  7. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #9

    Re: Can't...

    In that case, if you have to use know, then, can't doesn't work. It doesn't make sense. Sorry.


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    #10

    Re: Can't...

    Quote Originally Posted by Volcano1985 View Post
    "I can't know what you want exactly."
    Using the "can't" here is wrong or doesn't make sense ?
    It makes sense. Give it a context and it makes perfect sense.

    But nevertheless, it tweaks some ENL' English meters.

    [looking over a table of many different food dishes]

    A: Get me a plate of food.

    B: I can't [possibly] know what you want.

    With the addition of "possibly", it sounds better.

    Normally, we don't use 'can' to discuss a one time possibility. In English, 'can' is used to discuss general possibility.

    A: Where's my pen?

    B: ?? Kelly can have it. ??

    We use 'could/may/might' for these situations.

    B: Kelly could/may/might have it.

    Does this extend to the negative, <can't>? I don't think it does in as strong a fashion but anyway, the negative wouldn't be the normal first response, so out of context it sounds unnaturaL. It's a strong negation, something that is more likely to come later, as in Scenario 2.

    Scenario 1:

    A: Where's my pen?

    B: ? Kelly can't have it. ? [reads like a prohibition, not a measure of possibility]

    Scenario 2:

    A: Where's my pen?

    B: Kelly probably has it.

    C: Kelly can't have it.

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