+0
I was told that in the following sentence, can and could are both correct answers. If so, what is the difference in terms of meaning between can and could? It is really confusing.

1.If you want to get a better feeling for how the city is laid out, you cam /could walk downtown and explore the waterfront.

2. Hiking the trail to the peak can/ could be dangerous if you are not well prepared for dramatic weather changes.

3. I was reading the book last night before I went to bed. I never took it out of this room. It must be lying around here somewhere. Where could/can it be?
+0
'Could' is more tentative, less assured than 'can'.
+0
It's hard to get a grasp of the difference between can and could if you don't already have a grasp of the difference between is/are and would be. is/are tells a fact, straight out, as the truth. would be is not so sure; it recognizes that certain conditions may affect the truth; it states things more weakly - as if they were subject to unknown influences that can only be guessed at.

sun 941.If you want to get a better feeling for how the city is laid out, you can /could walk downtown and explore the waterfront.
can : could :: is : would be

a. If you want to get a better feeling for how the city is laid out, you can walk downtown and explore the waterfront.

~ If ... laid out, one (possible) way of doing that is to walk downtown and ....

[More immediately relevant. Stronger.]

b. If you want to get a better feeling for how the city is laid out, you could walk downtown and explore the waterfront.

~ If ... laid out, one (possible) way of doing that would be to walk downtown and ....

[Less immediately relevant. Weaker.]

sun 942. Hiking the trail to the peak can/ could be dangerous if you are not well prepared for dramatic weather changes.
These are nearly synonymous to my ear, though can seems to focus more on what is characteristic about the situation, whereas could seems more like another way of saying may or might.

a. Hiking the trail to the peak can be dangerous if you are not well prepared for dramatic weather changes.

~ Hiking the trail to the peak has the potential for being a dangerous undertaking if you are not well prepared ....

~ Hiking the trail to the peak is characteristically dangerous if you are not ...

b. Hiking the trail to the peak could be dangerous if you are not well prepared for dramatic weather changes.

~ Hiking the trail to the peak [may / might] be dangerous if you are not ....

~ It is possible that you will find it dangerous to hike the trail to the peak if you are not ....

sun 943. I was reading the book last night before I went to bed. I never took it out of this room. It must be lying around here somewhere. Where could/can it be?
Again, can : could :: is : would be

a. I was reading the book last night before I went to bed. I never took it out of this room. It must be lying around here somewhere. Where can it be?

~ I was ... Where is it possible [for it to be / for me to find it]?

b. I was reading the book last night before I went to bed. I never took it out of this room. It must be lying around here somewhere. Where could it be?

~ I was ... Where would it be possible [for it to be / for me to find it]?

CJ
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Comments  

Jenny's engagement ring is enormous! It....... have cost a fortune

Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Anonymous

Jenny's engagement ring is enormous! It....... have cost a fortune

Try "must have" there. Emotion: wink