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    #1

    could/can?

    what's the difference between could and can?
    If I can do it yesterday, I would do it?
    If I could do it yesterday, I would do it?


    when do you use "have had"?
    when do u use had had?
    I have had been working for 2 years now?
    I had had been working for 2 years now?

    difference between speak to and speak with?
    talk to and talk with?

    when do u use will and when do u use would?
    I would do it?
    I will do it?
    They said that they will be going tomorrow?
    They said that they would be going tomorrow?

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    #2

    Re: could/can?

    Could functions in the following ways:

    1) The simple past of can; I could read when I was four years old.

    2) An auxilliary function in the past; I knew I could read.

    3) As a past conditional; I said I would read it if I could.

    4) As a less forceful, more polite form of can; Could you help me read this? If you could, I would be happy.

    Have (and has, or had) functions in two main ways:

    1) To show ownership; I had a Toyota truck.

    2) As a verbal auxilliary to form perfect tenses; He had driven my truck.

    If the perfect tense includes the past participle of the verb to have (own), then you may get a sentence like this:

    He wished he had had a truck like mine.

    If you speak to someone, only you are speaking.
    If you speak with someone, both of you are speaking.

    Would and will have pretty much the same relationship as can and could.

    "They would be going" is less certain than "They will be going."

    I have had been working for 2 years now?
    I had had been working for 2 years now?

    Neither of the above sentences is correct English.

    I have been working for two years now. (I am still working)
    I had been working for two years now. (I am no longer working)


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #3

    Re: could/can?

    Quote Originally Posted by mykwyner View Post
    Could functions in the following ways:
    1) The simple past of can; I could read when I was four years old.

    It's simply not true that 'could' is a past tense of 'can', M. All it describes is a past general ability. It doesn't do what a past tense is supposed to do, describe a past action.

    As The Grammar Book states, the connection is a semantic one, not a syntactic one.

    *On my fourth birthday I could read the Declaration of Independence for my parents.* [* denotes ungrammatical]

    I will jump. [person jumps] I jumped.

    Is 'jumped the past tense of 'will'?



    3) As a past conditional; I said I would read it if I could.

    There is nothing to indicate that this is past at all, M.

    A: I'll read it if I can.

    B; Nothing's gonna happen.

    A: I said I would read it if I could.

    There's been no reading, there's been no attempt. All there's been is A using reported speech.

    ##

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    #4

    Re: could/can?

    Let's see if I've got this straight. Could means a general ability in the past; can means a general ability in the present, but the words are otherwise not related.

    Brilliant!


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    #5

    Re: could/can?

    Quote Originally Posted by mykwyner View Post
    Let's see if I've got this straight. Could means a general ability in the past; can means a general ability in the present, but the words are otherwise not related.
    Brilliant!
    No, that's not quite right, M, they are related in some other ways but there isn't the syntactic connection that you think is there. Try it yourself with combinations of 'can + verb', then see if 'could' works as a past tense.

    Watch me, I can swim. [swims] *See, I could swim.*

    Watch me, I can dance. [dances] *See, I could dance.*

    The syntactic connection, the real mark of a past tense, is missing. As the historical past tense, it's natural that to describe a general ability in the past, that task should fall to 'could', with the same holding true for the historical present, 'can'.

    'can & could' share identical meanings, ie. "It's possible"; that's why they seem to some to be present and past tenses.

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    #6

    Re: could/can?

    Are you saying that there is no difference in the degree of possibility?


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    #7

    Re: could/can?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Are you saying that there is no difference in the degree of possibility?
    It depends on the situation, Tdol. I think you're suggesting that 'could' is the more doubtful of the two. Well, not always.

    I thiiiiiink I caaaaannnnn go.

    versus

    I could definitely go.

    'can & could' don't actually state a degree of possibility like the other modals, 'may/might/should/must/ought to/etc. Their meanings are limited to "It's possible that ...". Intonation helps to suggest a higher or lower degree of possibility.

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