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Dear teachers,

When native speakers say "can" or "can't", they sometimes speak so fast that I can't make sure if they mean can or cannot, especially in the movies. I know we can know better by understanding the context of the sentence they made. To improve it, I wonder if they have anything to do with the tone change or is there any better way to catch the correct meaning quicker?

Do you, the native speakers, also have the same problem? Please advise.

LCChang
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Comments  
When there is a main verb, can is pronounced /kn/ and can't is pronounced /kaen/, and the latter is stressed more:

I can swim = / ai kn 'swim /
I can't swim = / ai 'kaen 'swim /

When there is no main verb, can is pronounced /kaen/ and can't is pronounced /kaent/, and the stresses are about equal:

Can you swim? = / kn ju: 'swim /
I can. = / ai 'kaen /
I can't. = / ai 'kaent /
I think the pronounciation in British English for "can't" is [kant], [kaent] is Am. English.
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LcchangDear teachers,

When native speakers say "can" or "can't", they sometimes speak so fast that I can't make sure if they mean can or cannot, especially in the movies. I know we can know better by understanding the context of the sentence they made. To improve it, I wonder if they have anything to do with the tone change or is there any better way to catch the correct meaning quicker?

Do you, the native speakers, also have the same problem? Please advise.

LCChang

Hi Lcchang,

Your are right. “Can” and “can’t” sound so close that they can be confusing to ESL learners. As Mr. Micawber pointed out, “can’t” has a higher inflection than “can”. Whereas in BrE, “can’t” is easier to distinguish from “can” due to the pronunciation difference. This took me sometime to overcome. I like to talk to the British because I enjoy the British accent. But I am sticking with the American English just to avoid confusion Emotion: smile
Hi Goodman,

Did you forget to sign in? In the past couple of days, your messages are shown as 'Anonymous' messages? Emotion: smile
Hi,

Yuh! I had automatic logon before. I keep forgetting to sign on. The configuration somehow changed.

By the way, how did you know it's me? Emotion: big smile

Goodman
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AnonymousHi,

Yuh! I had automatic logon before. I keep forgetting to sign on. The configuration somehow changed.

By the way, how did you know it's me? Emotion: big smile

Goodman

Quite simple, Goodman.Emotion: smile I am a keen observer of everyone's writing style in this forum, and just by reading the sentences, I can identify the poster of the message, if the poster is a regular member of this forum.Emotion: smile
Compared to other words, it's not uncommon for native speakers to have difficulty distinguishing between the two if someone is speaking softly or facing away from the person listening.
I love you all for your precious advice.

LCChang
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