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can be vs could be Options
robjen
Posted: Monday, August 07, 2017 7:06:57 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 2/17/2015
Posts: 368
Neurons: 1,993
I am going to make three pairs of sentences.

(1a) He is not trying as hard as he can.
(1b) He is not trying as hard as he could.

(2a) There can be a storm tomorrow.
(2a) There could be a storm tomorrow.

(3a) He can be in line for a special award.
(3b) He could be in line for a special award.

I don't see the difference in meaning between can be and could be. Please help me. Thanks.

Romany
Posted: Tuesday, August 08, 2017 5:37:56 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 12,828
Neurons: 39,097
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

We use 'can' to present a fact:-
I can swim.
I can speak English.
I can never resist chocolate.

But we use 'could' as a conditional:
I could swim...IF I didn't have a broken leg.
I could speak English... IF there were no native speakers present.
I could never resist chocolate ...IF someone gave me some.

No-one can predict the future. So when we're talking about the future we use conditional 'could' too.

Sure, it can rain tomorrow. It can snow. It can be sunny. Those are all conditions the weather can bring us. That's a fact. But it has nothing to do with what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. Tomorrow (in the future) it COULD rain: IF the weather report is correct. IF the current position remains the same. IF a meteor doesn't hit us and blow up the planet!! We can't say for absolute sure. But it's certainly possible.

He COULD be in line for a special award IF he makes the final selection, IF no-one else beats him at the last moment; IF he has fulfilled all the conditions.

Is any of that helpful?


Audiendus
Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017 7:47:29 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/24/2011
Posts: 4,334
Neurons: 754,821
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Romany wrote:
Sure, it can rain tomorrow. It can snow. It can be sunny. Those are all conditions the weather can bring us. That's a fact. But it has nothing to do with what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. Tomorrow (in the future) it COULD rain: IF the weather report is correct. IF the current position remains the same. IF a meteor doesn't hit us and blow up the planet!! We can't say for absolute sure. But it's certainly possible.


And if we do wish to express certainty, we use "will":

It will be Saturday tomorrow.
The weather will have become colder by October.
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