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  1. #1
    joham is offline Senior Member
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    Default Any child can/could grow up to be president

    Any child can grow up to be president.

    I read this sentence from englishpage.com (Modal verb tutorial). I should think 'could' is a better choice than 'can' in situations like this. After all, it's only a little bit possible for a child to be president. Am I right?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Any child can/could grow up to be president

    This is an instance where grammar, logic, and cultural ethos enter the wrestling ring; logic hollers uncle*, and whimpy grammar pleads "no contest" and meekly accommodates the victor.

    'can' means 'is permitted to' in the sense that barriers of class distinction, race, and religion do not stand in the way. (The assumption here is that the child was American (USA) by birth.)

    'could' suggests 'possibility', and to non-Americans such as you and I, seems the more logical, grammatically correct choice when we think of the odds. Such 'tentativeness', in a land where "nothing is impossible" is counter to the sentiment being expressed in "can be president", which overrides the logic of grammar: this is the land of the free, where anyone with ambition, drive, and savvy can achieve their dreams. There is no room for iffy tentativeness.
    (Kennedy said they would, and they did put a man on the moon!)

    Perhaps an American who lives and breathes the ethos can better express this sentiment, straight from a heart and soul that is imbued with the spirit.

    * an American colloquialism, where to say or cry "uncle" is to indicate surrender or admit defeat.
    holler : colloquial - "give a loud shout or cry"
    Last edited by David L.; 19-Apr-2009 at 17:02.

  3. #3
    joham is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Any child can/could grow up to be president

    I don't know how to thank you enough, David L., for your detailed and most interesting explanation. You gave me an insight not only into the use of 'can', but also into the learning of language as an ESL.

    Thank you again.

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    Default Re: Any child can/could grow up to be president

    I knew your standard of English was up to understanding it! (with a little help with the colloquialisms.)

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Any child can/could grow up to be president

    The use of the word 'child' suggests 'can' to me- otherwise why bother including it as every child will have to wait for many years until they get their shot at becoming president.

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