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    #1

    I can imagine going to Canada

    Consider these sentences, please:

    1) I can imagine a few situations where these words could be used.

    2) I can imagine going to Canada.

    Q: I know sentences 1) and 2) mean it is possible for the speaker to imagine... What if I add "If I want to" to sentences 1) and 2)? Would their meanings change?

    3) I can imagine a few situations where these words could be used if I want to.

    4) I can imagine going to Canada If I want to.

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    #2

    Re: I can imagine going to Canada

    I can imagine a few situations where these words could be used if I want to: If I want to put the effort into it, I can imagine a few situations where these words could be used.

    I can imagine a few situations where these words could be used if I wanted to: I can imagine a few situations where, if I wanted to use them, I could use these words.

    The second version is much more likely.

    The sentences about going to Canada behave exactly the same.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #3

    Re: I can imagine going to Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    I can imagine a few situations where these words could be used if I want to: If I want to put the effort into it, I can imagine a few situations where these words could be used.

    The sentences about going to Canada behave exactly the same.
    OK. So the expression "I can imagine...", in the contexts of 1) and 2), only implies "it is possible to imagine" and tells nothing about whether the speaker is imagining them right now (when he utters those sentences) or has imagined them at least once in the past. Am I right?
    Last edited by NAL123; 18-Sep-2020 at 11:29.

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    #4

    Re: I can imagine going to Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by NAL123 View Post
    OK. So the expression "I can imagine...", in the contexts of 1) and 2), only implies "it is possible to imagine" and tells nothing about whether the speaker is imagining them right now (when he utters those sentences) or has imagined them at least once in the past. Am I right?
    I think so, but it's risky to make blanket statements about English usage!
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  5. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #5

    Re: I can imagine going to Canada

    How about: I can imagine wanting to go to Canada.

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    #6

    Re: I can imagine going to Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    How about: I can imagine wanting to go to Canada.
    I don't have to imagine. I'd go there tomorrow if my health allowed and the border were open.
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    #7

    Re: I can imagine going to Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    How about: I can imagine wanting to go to Canada.
    I hate disagreeing with Tdol, but you either want to go to Canada or you don't. You do not, I think, imagine wanting something.

    If you are going to imagine going to Canada, you can do that at any time. However, if you are going to actually go to Canada, go during the summer.
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    #8

    Re: I can imagine going to Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by NAL123 View Post
    OK. So the expression "I can imagine...", in the contexts of 1) and 2), only implies "it is possible to imagine" and tells nothing about whether the speaker is imagining them right now (when he utters those sentences) or has imagined them at least once in the past. Am I right?
    I say no.

    It's only with the addition of If I want/wanted to where that would be the case. Otherwise, the most likely interpretation would be that the speaker is imagining these possibilities as he speaks.

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    #9

    Re: I can imagine going to Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I say no.

    It's only with the addition of If I want/wanted to where that would be the case. Otherwise, the most likely interpretation would be that the speaker is imagining these possibilities as he speaks.
    A: Can you imagine a context in which this sentence could be used?

    B: I can imagine a few contexts if I want to. But right now I don't have enough time to think of them.

    A: OK. ( "A" understands that "B" cannot explain to him those contexts right now.)

    Another dialogue:

    A: Can you imagine a context in which this sentence could be used?

    B: Yes, I can imagine a few contexts.

    A: Can you explain to me those contexts?

    B: Yes. Suppose...

    Is this what you mean?
    Last edited by NAL123; 19-Sep-2020 at 15:19.

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    #10

    Re: I can imagine going to Canada

    Yes. The difference is between uses of the modal verb can (general ability versus ability right now).

    This difference is beautifully shown in the following joke:

    A: Can you smell onions?
    B: Um, no.
    A: Really? Not even if you get up close?

    (Credit to the great Vic Reeves)

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