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    #1

    who can be?

    I am a Japanese and teach Englsih. I have a problem with "can" and "could".

    These are sentences on a Japanesse university entrance examination:

    The phone is ringing. Who can it be?

    Is this "can" correct? I think "Who could it be?" is correct.

    Thanks in advance.

  1. Harry Smith's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: who can be?

    Quote Originally Posted by mochimochi View Post
    I am a Japanese and teach Englsih. I have a problem with "can" and "could".

    These are sentences on a Japanesse university entrance examination:

    The phone is ringing. Who can it be?

    Is this "can" correct? I think "Who could it be?" is correct.

    Thanks in advance.
    Can is correct. Could is correct for the past action here. Usually they are interchangeable.

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    #3

    Re: who can be?

    Thanks Harry.

    I read Grammar in use intermediate by Raymond Murphy, Cambridge University Press.
    Itsays
    We use could to say that something is possible now or in the future:
    The phone is ringing. It could be Alex. ( not It can be Alex.)

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    #4

    Re: who can be?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Smith View Post
    Can is correct. Could is correct for the past action here. Usually they are interchangeable.
    I agree with you. Can is correct here. Could is correct for the past action and it has a rhetorical or even a higher degree of uncertainty here, as well.

  2. Harry Smith's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: who can be?

    Quote Originally Posted by teia_petrescu View Post
    I agree with you. Can is correct here. Could is correct for the past action and it has a rhetorical or even a higher degree of uncertainty here, as well.
    Very nice of you to agree with me! How are you enjoying your holidays?

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    #6

    Re: who can be?

    Quote Originally Posted by mochimochi View Post
    The phone is ringing. Who can it be?

    Is this "can" correct? I think "Who could it be?" is correct.
    Both are correct, although 'could' is probably more commonly said.

    In "The phone is ringing. It_____ be Alex.", I agree that 'could' is a much better choice than 'can'.

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    #7

    Re: who can be?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Smith View Post
    Very nice of you to agree with me! How are you enjoying your holidays?
    Hi Harry

    Thank you for asking me . Everything is ok despite the fact that I work hard every day. I teach [private lessons ] some pupils who have their entrance exam [at the Police Academy] at the end of this month. It`s hard work, believe me, because the subjects are really difficult. Fortunately, I love my work.

    What about you?

    All the best

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    #8

    Re: who can be?

    Thank 2006 for answering.

    I think that could is often used in the present, so could is a little diffcult to understand.Students suppose could has a past meaning because could is the past of can.Could has a similar meaning to might.When we talk about possibility, could is more often used than can.

    I wonder if I may ask Harry and teia_petrescu,
    aren't these sentences I gave such examples?

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    #9

    Re: who can be?

    Quote Originally Posted by mochimochi View Post

    I think that could is often used in the present, so could is a little diffcult to understand.Students suppose could has a past meaning because could is the past of can.Could has a similar meaning to might.When we talk about possibility, could is more often used than can.
    You're welcome.
    "could" is the past tense of "can", but that is just one of its functions; so don't overemphasize that role. As you already understand, "could" is often used for the present and the future.

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    #10

    Re: who can be?

    Quote Originally Posted by mochimochi View Post
    Thank 2006 for answering.

    I think that could is often used in the present, so could is a little diffcult to understand.Students suppose could has a past meaning because could is the past of can.Could has a similar meaning to might.When we talk about possibility, could is more often used than can.

    I wonder if I may ask Harry and teia_petrescu,
    aren't these sentences I gave such examples?
    Hi
    Yes, could is the past tense form of "can", but "could" is also commonly used in conditional sentences as in :
    I could go there if my mother let me/ allowed me to--If Clause , type II
    I could have passed my exams if I had worked hard --If Clause, type III

    "Could" is used to express possibility or past ability as well as to make suggestions and requests:
    You could see a movie or go out to dinner - suggestion
    You could have spent your vacation in Hawaii - suggestion
    Could you help me? -request
    But, remeber : "could" has not the same or almost the same meaning as "might". They are quite different.
    For instance:
    Mary might have / might not have the key- Maybe she has or maybe she does not have the key.
    Mary could not have the key- It is impossible that she should have the key.
    Mary could have the key -it is possible [but not certain] that Mary have the key.
    For more information on the uses of "could", you can search "google" and find plenty of examples and explanations on this subject.

    Hope it helps
    Last edited by Teia; 15-Jul-2007 at 19:42.

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