Results 1 to 6 of 6
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • South Africa
      • Current Location:
      • Taiwan

    • Join Date: Feb 2011
    • Posts: 8
    #1

    What can you do?

    I'm trying to decide; is "What can you do?" a viable sentence on its own.

    It works fine when used with a specified object, e.g. "What can you do with a B.A. degree?" But it makes no sense to me when used on its own.

    A colleague insists that it is a viable sentence. My response to this question would be a confused "What?"

    What do you think?

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Jun 2010
    • Posts: 24,512
    #2

    Re: What can you do?

    Welcome to the forum. morecoffee.

    'What can you do?' is used informally these days to mean 'There's nothing you can do about it'.

    A: 'The country's going to hell in a handcart.'

    B (shrugging shoulders): 'What can you do?'
    Rover

  1. BobK's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 16,038
    #3

    Re: What can you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by morecoffee View Post
    I'm trying to decide; is "What can you do?" a viable sentence on its own.

    It works fine when used with a specified object, e.g. "What can you do with a B.A. degree?" But it makes no sense to me when used on its own.

    A colleague insists that it is a viable sentence. My response to this question would be a confused "What?"

    What do you think?
    Your confusion is understandable, but - as Rover said - this is something said colloquially in contexts that give 'do' a specific meaning - 'take action to deal with a particular problem'. It can also, in other contexts, invite a listing of abilities, and with different stress it can be an implied insult: 'What can you do?'

    b

  2. Raymott's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 24,104
    #4

    Re: What can you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by morecoffee View Post
    I'm trying to decide; is "What can you do?" a viable sentence on its own.

    It works fine when used with a specified object, e.g. "What can you do with a B.A. degree?" But it makes no sense to me when used on its own.

    A colleague insists that it is a viable sentence. My response to this question would be a confused "What?"

    What do you think?
    Regardless of whether it can be used on its own, it is a proper sentence.
    Many sentences don't make sense on their own. "Sentence" is a grammatical construct. For meaning, you often need something more - maybe a context, which could come from either the situation or from preceding sentences.
    The following are all sentences, none of which make sense on their own:
    "Where did you put it?"
    "Why did you?"
    "Go and do it."
    "Tell me!"

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • South Africa
      • Current Location:
      • Taiwan

    • Join Date: Feb 2011
    • Posts: 8
    #5

    Re: What can you do?

    Thanks for the replies.


    To clarify, I'll provide context. Sorry, I should have included this in the initial question.

    This use of "What can you do?" is used as the question to prompt an answer such as "I can jump." or "I can do the can-can."

    Do any of you think it could be used in this way?

  3. 5jj's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Oct 2010
    • Posts: 28,134
    #6

    Re: What can you do?

    Yes, if it is clear fom the context - for example:

    I can drive, run a four-minute mile and speak Spanish. What can you do?

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •