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  1. #1

    You can go vs. You could go

    Thanks for entering.


    My understandings of You can go and You could go are as follows:

    1) A said to B: You can go
    B may have been kept working for A for 3 hours and is pretty unhappy. Finally, to B's great pleasure, A annouces that B is permitted to go. But A is not necessarily happy with B's leaving.

    2) A said to B: You could go

    2a) B has been helping A with A's work for 3 hours. A is grateful. But B offers to continue his help. A happily accept the offer because he needs B. And therefore the sentence 'You could go' acts as a praise. It may be paraphrased as
    You could go if you wanted. You didn't choose to go, so it's very nice of you

    2b) B has been helping A with A's work for 3 hours. A is grateful. And A believe either he can finish the rest of the work by himself or it would be inconvenient for B to continue helping him. So the sentence is neither a permission nor a praise, but rather a combination of the two. It may be paraphrased as

    You've been really helpful. You can go now if you like.


    The difference between 2b) and 2a) is that 2b) provides real information, namely 'You can leave', whereas 2a) conveys little more than the A's appreciation for B's help.
    The difference between 2b) and 1) is that 2b) carries A's appreciation. Simply saying 1) would be rude if B is not obliged to help A.



    Above is my understanding, which I doubt a lot. Would anyone express your view on this thing? Thanks a lot!

  2. Mister Micawber's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: You can go vs. You could go

    Far too complex for my simple mind.


    'You can go' means 'you have my permission to leave'. It needs no further interpretation, though explanation may be appended: '... if you've finished mopping the floors', '...if you are hungry', etc.

    'You could go' -- this sentence carries no meaning to the listener as it stands alone. It is hypothetical-- "you could go, if... (insert any unfulfilled condition: 'if the store were closed', 'if your replacement had come', etc)

    There is no element of appreciation or courtesy inherent in either sentence. Where it appears is in asking someone to perform a task:

    'Could you peel the turnips?' is more appreciative/polite than 'can you peel the turnips?'

    I also appears in assignments to oneself: 'Can I help you?' is more abrupt than 'could I help you?'

  3. Steven D's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: You can go vs. You could go

    Quote Originally Posted by peteryoung
    Thanks for entering.


    My understandings of You can go and You could go are as follows:

    1) A said to B: You can go
    B may have been kept working for A for 3 hours and is pretty unhappy. Finally, to B's great pleasure, A annouces that B is permitted to go. But A is not necessarily happy with B's leaving.

    2) A said to B: You could go

    2a) B has been helping A with A's work for 3 hours. A is grateful. But B offers to continue his help. A happily accept the offer because he needs B. And therefore the sentence 'You could go' acts as a praise. It may be paraphrased as
    You could go if you wanted. You didn't choose to go, so it's very nice of you

    2b) B has been helping A with A's work for 3 hours. A is grateful. And A believe either he can finish the rest of the work by himself or it would be inconvenient for B to continue helping him. So the sentence is neither a permission nor a praise, but rather a combination of the two. It may be paraphrased as

    You've been really helpful. You can go now if you like.


    The difference between 2b) and 2a) is that 2b) provides real information, namely 'You can leave', whereas 2a) conveys little more than the A's appreciation for B's help.
    The difference between 2b) and 1) is that 2b) carries A's appreciation. Simply saying 1) would be rude if B is not obliged to help A.



    Above is my understanding, which I doubt a lot. Would anyone express your view on this thing? Thanks a lot!
    1. A is giving B permission to leave.

    2. You could go. - This is unlikely unless B is thinking of something else.

    example: B to A: Yeah...well..... you could go now, but ah..... mm..... (I don't know...)

    example: You could go, but I wouldn't like it. We have to get the rest of this work done, and if you went home now, we wouldn't finish it. It's hard to say if A would actually say something like this. It depends on the context and the relationship that A and B have with each other.

    2a. - Right, in this case it would mean: "You know, you could go if you wanted to. Thanks for staying." Still, it's hard to say what someone such as B would really say. B might also say, "You know you can if want you." A might say, "Oh, that's okay. I'll stay a while longer."

    2b. - No, I would not interpret "you could go" the way you have in 2b.

    If A doesn't want B to stay, but wants to be polite about informing A of this, B might say: 1. You know, you could go now if you want to.

    This is possible as well, but more direct: 2. You know, you can go now if you want to.

    I think it's possible that A would add a little emphatic stress to "could" in this case.

    If A just wants to tell B that he/she can go, then A will say: You can go now.

    If B has a choice, then A might say: You can go now if you want to.
    Last edited by Steven D; 22-May-2005 at 15:53.

  4. Steven D's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: You can go vs. You could go

    duplicate
    Last edited by Steven D; 22-May-2005 at 15:45. Reason: duplicate post

  5. Steven D's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: You can go vs. You could go

    "Can I help you?" This might be considered more abrupt and more direct than "could I help you." However, I feel really feel compelled to say that I hear it often. It's really normal, and I don't think that in reality it would sound that abrupt to the listener. Abrupt is a strong word.

    On some occassions the speaker might say "may I help you", but, in my opinion, that is only because he/she would have been asked to say it that way by an employer. More often than not, people don't use "may" for this sort of question. This is an American English perspective. Speakers of other styles of English may not agree with this 100%. "May" is mostly reserved for more formal exchanges. As well, this has much to do with one's own preference. There are those that would use "may" in this way, but I think they're outnumbered by those who don't use "may" in this way. It's my observation that "may" for a request or permission is not often used in ordinary everyday contexts. Using "may" this way might seem polite. It might also seem overly formal and even out of place in some circumstances.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&l...+I+help+you%22
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...+I+help+you%22

    I think "could I help you" is possible in certain contexts. Someone is doing something difficult, so someone else offers to help by saying, "Could I help you with that?" I can't say that "Can I help you with that?" would, in reality, sound abrupt. We have to remember that speakers often use intonation and tone to communicate meaning just as much as they use the words themselves.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&l...+I+help+you%22

    I'll conclude by saying, yes, "could" is more polite generally speaking. This doesn't mean, however, that "can" is heard as impolite or even abrupt. If you want to be sure that your tone sounds gentler, then by all means use "could", not "can".
    Last edited by Steven D; 23-May-2005 at 13:03.

  6. #6

    Re: You can go vs. You could go

    I fully appreciate this. Thanks!

  7. Steven D's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: You can go vs. You could go

    Quote Originally Posted by peteryoung
    I fully appreciate this. Thanks!

    You're welcome.

    You have some interesting questions.


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