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Don't vs can't Options
bihunsedap
Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2018 10:35:23 PM

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Joined: 11/26/2014
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He didn't ask something properly and sound unclear.

"I don't understand what you said."
"I can't understand what you said." I told him.

Which one correct? Do they have different meaning?
palapaguy
Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2018 11:21:46 PM

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Location: Calabasas, California, United States
Both are correct and have the same meaning in most contexts.
leonAzul
Posted: Friday, June 8, 2018 12:26:00 AM

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If I might respectfully make some suggestions, your questions are not well formed grammatically.

bihunsedap wrote:
He didn't ask something properly and sound unclear.


The word "and" functions here as a conjunction. It is expected that what it connects are grammatically similar, thus the second predicate could be interpreted as "He sound unclear." Can you see how this is not a valid construction in standard English?

Here are several suggestions that are considered valid.

He didn't ask something properly and clearly. (This conjoins the two adverbs.)
He didn't ask something properly, and his question sounded unclear to me. (This conjoins two independent clauses that are appropriately tensed.)


bihunsedap wrote:
Which one correct?


This sentence lacks a verb for its predicate. I think you meant to write: "Which one is (would be) correct?"

The use of the simple present tense would be acceptable for informal speech. The use of the conditional mood would be better.

bihunsedap wrote:
Do they have different meaning?


This sentence requires that the number (singular or plural) be correct for both the verb and its object: "Do they have different meanings?"

bihunsedap wrote:

"I don't understand what you said."
"I can't understand what you said." I told him.


I agree with palapaguy that there is very little difference in meaning for most colloquial conversations. Yet there is a subtle difference that you might want to consider.

To say that you don't understand something is more neutral. It logically invites the other person to try to make the question more understandable.

To say that you can't understand something makes the situation less viable because the ability to understand at all is explicitly stated not to be possible. That is, of course, a very literal interpretation, yet when dealing with other persons who also might not be entirely fluent with English idioms and conversational patterns, it sometimes could make the difference between getting a clarifying question or a fight.



"Make it go away, Mrs Whatsit," he whispered. "Make it go away. It's evil."
bihunsedap
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 10:27:33 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 11/26/2014
Posts: 1,275
Neurons: 6,374
Thanks all.
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