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Thread: Could/Can

  1. ESL101
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    #1

    Could/Can

    1) Could you please answer this question?
    2) Can you please anser this question?

    Which one is correct? I hear people use the first one a lot. But why use past tense when you're asking someone to do something?

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    #2
    They are both correct; the differences are down to how polite the question is intended to be.
    I'm not a teacher, so please consider any advice I give in that context.

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    #3
    The past is more polite- it creates a distance between the speaker and the person they are asking.

  2. Anonymous
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    #4

    Re: Could/Can

    Quote Originally Posted by ESL101
    1) Could you please answer this question?
    2) Can you please anser this question?

    Which one is correct? I hear people use the first one a lot. But why use past tense when you're asking someone to do something?
    Tdol is correct in that could is used in more distant relationships. Some people see this as more polite yet "can" is just as polite among friends. It is better not to think too much about "could" always being the past form. It can be used for the future too (among other things):

    e.g. I can't come next Friday, but I could come on Saturday.

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    #5
    I agree- among close friends, there would only be a call to use it if the relationship had come under stress and a distance had appeared. In natural conversation with a friend, it could sound strange- 'too polite'.

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