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    #1

    Exclamation Modals, degrees of certainty

    hi

    In present negative time we can say for example, "he could not/cannot be sick". But, in present positive time we can only use "he could be sick". I wonder if we can also use "he can be sick" as well and if not what is the reason?

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    #2

    Re: Modals, degrees of certainty

    We cannot say "He can be sick" meaning "it is possible that he is sick". There is no clear answer to your question "What is the reason?"

    The English modal verbs system has been called messy by more than one grammarian. The meanings of these verbs and the ways in which they are used have changed over the centuries,and changed in different ways for the various verbs abd for different speakers. The best that grammarians can do is attempt to describe how these verbs appear to be used by the majority of native speakers at the time of writing. Few attempt to explain why certain modals mean certain things.

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    #3

    Re: Modals, degrees of certainty

    I see. So, does this mean that grammar of all languages including English is not static and we may see some other ways through which sentences are produced? I mean can we say that we cannot equate grammar with rules due to the evolving nature of language?

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    #4

    Re: Modals, degrees of certainty

    Speakers of all languages at all registers follow rules, some more rigidly than others. All living languages evolve. Some aspects of languages change more readily than others. I'm not a linguist but I think it's clear that vocabulary changes faster than pronunciation, for example.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #5

    Re: Modals, degrees of certainty

    Languages change all the time. In the sixty or so years in which I have had some knowledge of English grammar, I have seen countless structures unacceptable in writing and formal speech in 1957 become completely acceptable today.
    Quote Originally Posted by Venus.jam View Post
    I mean can we say that we cannot equate grammar with rules due to the evolving nature of language?
    I'm not sure what you mean by that. The 'rules' of English grammar are simply observations on what is acceptable and what is not. For example, the first person singular form of the verb BE is, for all speakers of standard varieties of English, am. If enough people start saying I is, so that this becomes the accepted form, then the 'rule' will have changed.

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