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  1. AlJapone's Avatar
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    #1

    On the usage of `could not'

    Dear teachers.
    What I wish to know is whether or not the usage of `could not' does NOT include making of suggestion in any kind of construction.
    I had thought it did not until I came across a sentence, "you could also not listen to me," which appeared to me that `also' separating `could' and `not' created some space for interpreting the sentence as a suggestion.
    Below I write my interpretations. Would you tell me which ones you find acceptable? Furthermore, if you think I have overlooked any other possible interpretations, please state them.
    1. You will possibly also not listen to me.
    2. You were also not able to listen to me.
    3. You are also allowed not to listen to me.


    Best wishes,
    AlJapone

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: On the usage of `could not'

    Quote Originally Posted by AlJapone View Post
    Dear teachers.
    What I wish to know is whether or not the usage of `could not' does NOT include making of suggestion in any kind of construction.
    I had thought it did not until I came across a sentence, "you could also not listen to me," which appeared to me that `also' separating `could' and `not' created some space for interpreting the sentence as a suggestion.
    Below I write my interpretations. Would you tell me which ones you find acceptable? Furthermore, if you think I have overlooked any other possible interpretations, please state them.
    1. You will possibly also not listen to me.
    2. You were also not able to listen to me.
    3. You are also allowed not to listen to me.


    Best wishes,
    AlJapone
    The sentence could be interpreted in any of the three ways you've mentioned. It's impossible to tell which, though, without context. I'd guess that 3. is most likely, then 1, then 2.

  3. apex2000's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: On the usage of `could not'

    'You could also not listen to me'.
    This is one of the beauties of the English language, and an example of its difficulties.

    1.You could listen to me.
    2.You could also listen to me.
    3.You could not listen to me.
    4.You could also not listen to me.

    First of all there is 'could' which introduces the option - you may or may not listen, it is your choice.
    So, taking 1. the speaker could be suggesting that you could listen - instead of lacking attention, or making a choice to do something entirely different, or as an option to what the subject had already chosen.
    2. Do two things but not necessarily at the same time.
    3. Choose to avoid listening to the speaker, or, accepting that circumstances prevented the subject from listening.
    4. This needs the deepest understanding. You could do a number of things as well as not listen; you could do a number of things instead of listening; you could listen or not as you choose.

    In speech, intonation would help understanding but in writing it should be all about the context. That is why reading as much as possible is so important.

  4. AlJapone's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: On the usage of `could not'

    Thank you, Raymott and apex2000.
    After reading your posts, I have understood that could not occurs in sentences used for making suggestions. However, how about couldn't? I suspect it cannot impart any suggestive implication even with help of intonation.
    If so, should we consider couldn't and could not as two different modals? Or is it just that the word "couldn't" does not allow itself to be uttered in certain ways; hence, it cannot be used in making suggestions?

    Best wishes,
    AlJapone
    Last edited by AlJapone; 30-Dec-2010 at 07:35.

  5. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: On the usage of `could not'

    Quote Originally Posted by AlJapone View Post
    Thank you, Raymott and apex2000.
    After reading your posts, I have understood that could not occurs in sentences used for making suggestions. However, how about couldn't? I suspect it cannot impart any suggestive implication even with help of intonation.
    If so, should we consider couldn't and could not as two different modals? Or is it just that the word "couldn't" does not allow itself to be uttered in certain ways; hence, it cannot be used in making suggestions?

    Best wishes,
    AlJapone
    You're right. You can't say, "You couldn't listen to me", to mean "You don't have to listen to me. But that is only because the emphasis has to be on 'not', and 'could' is de-empasised.
    "You c'd not listen to me" - that's how it would sound; or 'could' with a pause after it.
    Anyhow, 'could' is the modal, not 'couldn't'. In this sentence, 'couldn't' doesn't exist, because it's 'listen' that's being negated, not 'could'. "[You could] [not listen].

  6. lauralie2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: On the usage of `could not'

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    ...it's 'listen' that's being negated, not 'could'. "[You could] [not listen].



    • [could] listen <able to listen>
    • [could] not listen <able to not listen>
    • [couldn't] listen <unable to listen>

  7. AlJapone's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: On the usage of `could not'

    I appreciate your kindness, everyone. Your posts completely cleared my doubts about could not.
    Thank you very much.

    Best wishes,
    AlJapone

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