[Grammar] Do you speak English? VS Can you speak English?

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Williamyh

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Hi Everybody,

I really want to know the difference between "Do you speak English?" and "Can you speak English?" are they have same meaning? Thanks.

W
 

areev

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Hi Everybody,

I really want to know the difference between "Do you speak English?" and "Can you speak English?" are they have same meaning? Thanks.

W


I don't think so.

Do you speak English?
it means the asker wants to know whether you speak English in your daily activity.
(native speaker)

Can you speak English?
it means the asker wants to know whether you can speak English.

Please, correct me if I'm wrong :oops:

Cheers:-D
 

2006

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Hi Everybody,

I really want to know the difference between "Do you speak English?" and "Can you speak English?" Do they have same meaning? Thanks.
Without any special context, they mean the same. One doesn't speak English if one can't speak English.
 

Offroad

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I'd prefer 'Do you...?' instead of 'Can you...?'. It just sounds more polite.

[not a teacher]
 

Tdol

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Without any special context, they mean the same. One doesn't speak English if one can't speak English.

Yes, but doesn't do you suggest a high level of knowledge?
 

2006

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Yes, but doesn't do you suggest a high level of knowledge?

I'm not convinced that do you suggests a high(er) level.
I suppose one could argue that "can" more clearly suggests ability, while "do" indicates the act of speaking, whatever the level may be. But again I would think that one does if one can, at whatever level and frequency.

The opinions of others are welcome.
 
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Raymott

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What's the context?

Let's suppose A and B both speak fluent English and a bit of Spanish, and each knows this. B is not as proficient.

A: Tengo un motocicleta azul.
B: Can you speak English?

No, "Do you speak English?" does not mean the same.
 

2006

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What's the context?

Let's suppose A and B both speak fluent English and a bit of Spanish, and each knows this. B is not as proficient.

A: Tengo un motocicleta azul.
B: Can you speak English?

No, "Do you speak English?" does not mean the same. That is correct. But what B said is not a question; it is a request. B knows that A can speak English.

So the above conversation does not address the question of whether the two questions have the same meaning.
2006
 

euncu

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What's the context?

Let's suppose A and B both speak fluent English and a bit of Spanish, and each knows this. B is not as proficient.

A: Tengo un motocicleta azul.
B: Can you speak English?

No, "Do you speak English?" does not mean the same.

Maybe, B would have been more polite if he/she had asked it with "would".

Would you speak English, please? You well know that I'm not that good at Spanish.
 

bertietheblue

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Even as questions, they don't always have the same meaning. For example, my Japanese wife gets asked, "Do you speak to your children in English or Japanese?" but not "Can you ...?"

But in the context in which the question is most likely to be asked - being in a country where English isn't the language spoken - I don't see much difference. I'm lost on the streets of, say, Cairo, I approach someone and I ask:

'Do you speak English?'

or

'Can you speak English?'

Is there a difference? Hmm. Beats me if there is.
 

3lomas

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Hi Everybody,

I really want to know the difference between "Do you speak English?" and "Can you speak English?" are they have same meaning? Thanks.

W


no, they are not the same.
Do you: is used for normal activities.
can you: is used for ability.

Ex: can you play football?: It's asked if you are able to play football.
Ex: do you play football?: it's asked if you usually play football, but it doesn't ask if you're able to do this.
 

Barb_D

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But in the context in which the question is most likely to be asked - being in a country where English isn't the language spoken - I don't see much difference. I'm lost on the streets of, say, Cairo, I approach someone and I ask:

'Do you speak English?'

or

'Can you speak English?'

Is there a difference? Hmm. Beats me if there is.

This is exactly the scenario that I imagine using this in, and I see no difference either.

And if the situation were reversed -- if an anxious-looking person approached me here in the US and asked "Do you speak French" -- I wouldn't say "Well, I can, but I don't. Do you want to know if I CAN speak French? Yes, a little." (I would use my pathetic knowledge of French to try to help the person.)

Context, context, context!
 

philadelphia

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On the one hand, 'can you speak English' and 'do you speak English' look similars to me. Some context: I am currently working for a company and the half of our clients are native speakers of English (Uk, Canadians, Americans, Aussies, Kiwis). They have asked me with either structure thus far as they just wanted me to speak it, hence both structures are interchangeables.

On the other hand, 'can you speak English' and 'do you speak English' sound slightly different to me. The first structure tends to imply you have just some study and/or basic abilities and you speak it rarely (the asker did not expect more in using can and that is fine for him/her as s/he is to ask for basic information) whilst the second structure would mean you have great skills and you speak it frequently (the asker expected at least this in using do as s/he would like you to provide accurate information).

I agree that context would help!
 
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Raymott

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Maybe, B would have been more polite if he/she had asked it with "would".

Would you speak English, please? You well know that I'm not that good at Spanish.
Quite possibly. But he said "Can you speak English?" This is colloquial enough in this context, and it's the question of the topic.
The simple point I tried to make was that the two sentences can mean the same thing, or they can mean different things - depending on the context.
 
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