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    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
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      • Japan
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    • Join Date: Jan 2008
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    #1

    the use of "could"

    Hi teachers!

    When I was reading an English passage, I encountered a sentence below

    "...I don't know what he could be talking about with the people he meets at the roadside, but clearly it is nothing important."


    I'd like to ask about the underlined part. Is this different from "what he is talking about"? I don't understand why "could" is used here.

    I'd appreciate your help.

    Thank you

    OP

    • Member Info
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      • British English
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      • UK
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    #2

    Re: the use of "could"

    Quote Originally Posted by optimistic pessimist View Post
    Hi teachers!

    When I was reading an English passage, I encountered a sentence below

    "...I don't know what he could be talking about with the people he meets at the roadside, but clearly it is nothing important."


    I'd like to ask about the underlined part. Is this different from "what he is talking about"? I don't understand why "could" is used here.

    I'd appreciate your help.

    Thank you

    OP
    Yes, essentially it means little more than your paraphrase. The use of 'could' simply serves to emphasize the speaker's sense of bemusement (= whatever would it be POSSIBLE for him to be talking about?)

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