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Thread: what can be

    • Join Date: Jan 2007
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    what can be

    The Daughter : I'm getting chilled to the bone. What can Freddy be doing all this time? He's been gone twenty minutes.
    The Mother : Not so long. But he ought to have got us a cab by this.
    A Bystander : He wont get no cab not until half-post eleven, missus, when they come back after dropping their theatre fares.
    The Mother : But we must have a cab. We can't stand here until half-past eleven. It's too bad.
    The Bystander : Well, it ain't my fault, missus.
    The Daughter : If Freddy had a bit of gumption, he would have got one at the theatre door.

    If it were, `What is Freddy doing all this time', I could understand it. But the use of `can be', which expresses ability, instead of `is' causes confusion in me to understand the exact meaning of the sentence.

    Could you explain it?
    Last edited by user_gary; 07-Jul-2007 at 04:51.

  1. engee30's Avatar
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    Retired English Teacher
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    Re: what can be

    What is Freddy doing all this time? is a standard question.
    What can Freddy be doing all this time? is a question expressing one's prediction about someone else's actions.

    He is trying to... = I'm sure he is trying to...
    He can be trying to... = I think he is trying to...

    Bear in mind I'm not a teacher!

  2. RonBee's Avatar
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    Re: what can be

    "What can Freddy be doing all this time?" is a way of expressing frustration. It's a way of saying "What's keeping him?" The speaker is expressing annoyance and impatience.



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