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    #1

    there can be

    1. If the drought goes on much longer, there can be water rationing before the end of the month.

    This is an incorrect sentence for the reader to correct in Martin Hewing's ADVANCED GRAMMAR IN USE. The writer says we should say '...there may/ might/ could be ...'

    2. I am confident that a solution can be found. (LONGMAN, 3rd edition, can)

    My question is: Both sentence 1 & 2 are talking about a future possibility, then why sentence 1 is wrong while sentence 2 is right?

    Thank you very much.


    • Join Date: Oct 2006
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    #2

    Re: there can be

    "Can" is used to indicate capability or probability.

    "May" is used to indicate permissibility.

    You can go out - it is a question of whether you may go out = It is possible to go out but have you permission to go out.

    With your example:

    If the drought goes on much longer, there can be water rationing before the end of the month. ['...there may/ might/ could be ..]

    All of these indicate a degree of uncertainty which is not the case with "can". Sentence 2 says there is a high degree of probability that a solution will be found.


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #3

    Re: there can be

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    "Can" is used to indicate capability or probability.

    "May" is used to indicate permissibility.

    You can go out - it is a question of whether you may go out = It is possible to go out but have you permission to go out.
    This too, is a prescription, Anglika. Needless to say, it's false.

    'can' is used for permission/ability/possibility/have I missed anything else?

    'may' is used for permission and possibility/[have I missed anything else?]




    LGSWE

    Despite a well-known prescription favoring may rather than can for expressing permission, may is especially rare in the sense of permission.
    Last edited by riverkid; 19-Dec-2007 at 03:56.


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    #4

    Re: there can be

    Quote Originally Posted by joham View Post
    1. If the drought goes on much longer, there can be water rationing before the end of the month.

    This is an incorrect sentence for the reader to correct in Martin Hewing's ADVANCED GRAMMAR IN USE. The writer says we should say '...there may/ might/ could be ...'

    2. I am confident that a solution can be found. (LONGMAN, 3rd edition, can)

    My question is: Both sentence 1 & 2 are talking about a future possibility, then why sentence 1 is wrong while sentence 2 is right?

    Thank you very much.
    It's not just a future possibility, Joham. It's the difference between a specific one and a general one. It's that we simply don't use 'can' for a specific future possibility, Joham.

    [a knock on the door]

    *That can be Joham.

    That could/may/might be Joham.

    In #1, the possibility is real, a specific situation. There is a drought. In #2, the possibility of a solution is a general one, despite the confidence expressed by the speaker.

    *It can rain tomorrow. [specific] vs It can rain there in the Fall. [general]

    It could/may/might rain tomorrow.

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    #5

    Re: there can be

    First of all, there's a difference in the meaning and use of "can", depending on which form (affirmative, interrogative, or negative) it is used in. For example, "I can help you" means I have what it takes to be of help to you, but "Can I help you?" is an offer to help.

    Speaking of "can" as used in the affirmative, it may mean one of the following:
    -that someone is capable of doing something, that it's within their power to do it, or that conditions enable them to do it: "I can lift this heavy box", "I can do this exercise", "The rain has let up, so we can leave now".
    -that someone is permitted to do something: "Baby, you can drive my car" (from an old song by the Beatles), "He can go wherever he wants; I don't care", "The landlord says that we can use the garden to grow tomatoes". "May" would also be possible in this sense, but it's rather formal and outdated.
    What "can" cannot be used for in the affirmative is to show possibility or probability; we don't say: "It can rain tomorrow", "He can be here soon", "This old wall can fall". Instead we must use "may" or "could" or even "might". For the very same reason the sentence "there can be water rationing..." is wrong.

    On the other hand, the sentence "...a solution can be found" is correct, because it means that it's within our power to find a solution.

    Remember that "can...?" and "can't" are often used rather differently.


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    #6

    Re: there can be

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    This too, is a prescription, Anglika. Needless to say, it's false.

    'can' is used for permission/ability/possibility/have I missed anything else?

    'may' is used for permission and possibility/[have I missed anything else?]

    Why do you always have to argue this kind of point? Simple grammar rules are clear. You may not like them but that does not give you the right to claim they are false or wrong. You can in fairness indicate that there may other interpretations. Continually miscalling other people's answers is not good manners.


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #7

    Re: there can be

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    Why do you always have to argue this kind of point? Simple grammar rules are clear. You may not like them but that does not give you the right to claim they are false or wrong. You can in fairness indicate that there may other interpretations. Continually miscalling other people's answers is not good manners.
    Anglika,

    Why did you ignore the quote from the LGSWE and try to shift this to me? Language science makes this crystal clear, simple grammar rules that prescribe are not clear, they are false representations of language.


    ++++++++++
    LGSWE

    Despite a well-known prescription favoring may rather than can for expressing permission, may is especially rare in the sense of permission.

    +++++++++++

    I have nothing at all against you personally but do you consider misleading people on language an example of good manners? Language, like all science, is hardly a matter of opinion.

    If I now were to ask for proof to support this prescriptive notion, would you then be able to provide something?

    Here's another one;

    ++++++++++++++++

    M-W:

    can

    usage Can and may are most frequently interchangeable in senses denoting possibility; because the possibility of one's doing something may depend on another's acquiescence, they have also become interchangeable in the sense denoting permission. The use of can to ask or grant permission has been common since the 19th century and is well established, although some commentators feel may is more appropriate in formal contexts. May is relatively rare in negative constructions (mayn't is not common); cannot and can't are usual in such contexts.

    ++++++++++++++++

    And another.


    ++++++++++++++

    LGSWE

    ... can commonly marks permission, ability and logical possibility. ... In conversation, can is much more common [between 'may' & 'can'] as an unambiguous marker of ability or permission.

    +++++++++++++++

    How can you possibly write; "Can is used to indicate capability or probability. May is used to indicate permissibility",

    in the face of so much evidence showing that this is indeed, inaccurate, not only for 'can' but also for 'may'?

    How can/could prescriptions possibly be of any use to ESLs as they try to make their way thru the world using English?
    Last edited by riverkid; 20-Dec-2007 at 02:00.

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