+0

How do we ask questions using "can/could"?

1) a) Can man live without food?
b) Can men/women live without women/men?

2) a) Could man live without food?
b) Could men/women live without women/men?

3) a) Could man have lived without food?
b) Could men/women have lived without women/men?

+2
Rizan MalikHow do we ask questions using "can/could"?

We ask them just as you have written them.

All of your examples of questions with can and could are correct.

CJ

+2

Differences.

These are the basics. I don't claim to have covered every possible nuance of meaning you may encounter in your reading or conversation.


1) Here can asks directly if something is possible. Or, stated differently, whether the subject of the sentence has the ability to do something.

Can man live without food?
~ Is it possible for man to live without food?

~ Is man able to live without food?

Can men live without women?
~ Is it possible for men to live without women?

~ Are men able to live without women?

There is also the interpretation (less likely, especially in the first example) where can asks for permission.

Is it permitted for man to live without food?
~ Is man permitted to live without food?

Is it permitted for men to live without women?
~ Are men permitted to live without women?

2) could can be interpreted as the past of can. It asks directly if something was possible. Or, stated differently, whether the subject of the sentence had the ability to do something. (This interpretation is not likely for the first sentence.)

Could man live without food?
~ Was it possible for man to live without food?

~ Was man able to live without food?

Could men live without women?
~ Was it possible for men to live without women?

~ Were men able to live without women?

Likewise for asking permission in the past, with the same proviso as above about the likelihood of this interpretation:

Was man permitted to live without food?
Were men permitted to live without women?

2) could can also be interpreted as asking "wondering", "theoretically" whether maybe something might be (or would be) possible. (present or future time)

Could man live without food?
~ I wonder if man might/would be able to live without food. What do you think?

Could men live without women?
~ I wonder if men might/would be able to live without women. What do you think?

3) Here could have asks "wondering", "theoretically" whether maybe something might have been (or would have been) possible. (past time)

Could man have lived without food?
~ I wonder if man might/would have been able to live without food. What do you think?

Could men have lived without women?
~ I wonder if men might/would have been able to live without women. What do you think?

CJ

Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
1 2
Comments  
CalifJim
Rizan MalikHow do we ask questions using "can/could"?

We ask them just as you have written them.

All of your examples of questions with can and could are correct.

CJ


Are there any differences in meaning between 1), 2) and 3)?

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

Thank you very much.

CalifJimThese are the basics. I don't claim to have covered every possible nuance of meaning you may encounter in your reading or conversation.

1) Does the underlined sentence above mean: every possible nuance of meaning you may encounter in your future reading or conversation.

2) Can I replace the "may" above with "could" or "might"?

Rizan Malik1) Does the underlined sentence above mean: every possible nuance of meaning you may encounter in your future reading or conversation.

Yes.

Rizan Malik2) Can I replace the "may" above with "could" or "might"?

Yes. 'might' is more usual than 'could', but both are possible.

CJ

CalifJim

3) Here could have asks "wondering", "theoretically" whether maybe something might have been (or would have been) possible. (past time)

Could man have lived without food?
~ I wonder if man might/would have been able to live without food. What do you think?

Could men have lived without women?
~ I wonder if men might/would have been able to live without women. What do you think?

CJ

I wonder if "can" could be used in sentence 3) above. What do you think?

3) a) Can man have lived without food?

b) Can men have lived without women?

Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Rizan Malik

I wonder if "can" could be used in sentence 3) above. What do you think?

3) a) Can man have lived without food?

b) Can men have lived without women?

You've just hit on a sort of peculiarity in our use of modal verbs in English, namely, that the combination "can have" (with a past participle) is not used much. We tend to avoid it. It's not wrong, but we just don't use it much.

In fact, when I tried to find examples of "can have" followed by a verb form in the Google Ngrams application, it told me that it could not find any examples in the corpus, something very unusual for such a large database. Similarly, fraze.it finds only three to six examples for searches like "can have done" and "can have gone".

In modern English we use "could have" in that position. In the English of quite some time ago, and only comparatively rarely nowadays, "might have" was possible there.

CJ

CalifJim
Rizan Malik

I wonder if "can" could be used in sentence 3) above. What do you think?

3) a) Can man have lived without food?

b) Can men have lived without women?

You've just hit on a sort of peculiarity in our use of modal verbs in English, namely, that the combination "can have" (with a past participle) is not used much. We tend to avoid it. It's not wrong, but we just don't use it much.

In fact, when I tried to find examples of "can have" followed by a verb form in the Google Ngrams application, it told me that it could not find any examples in the corpus, something very unusual for such a large database. Similarly, fraze.it finds only three to six examples for searches like "can have done" and "can have gone".

In modern English we use "could have" in that position. In the English of quite some time ago, and only comparatively rarely nowadays, "might have" was possible there.

CJ

One last question:

Can we say that in modern English we almost always use "could have" instead of "can have" for asking questions?


Can the same be said of "can have" when talking about negative statements?


1) A: Could (not normally "can") that have been true?

B: I know my daughter. That couldn't ("can't"??) have been true or she couldn't ("can't"??) have said it!

2) A: Where could (not normally "can") she have put it?

B: Obviously, she couldn't ("can't"??) have put it in the fridge.

Show more