Are you unable to sleep ? / Can't you sleep ?

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Turkey, Turkish
Hi all,

I want to start by saying I've checked previous threads about the same subject but couldn't find an answer to my question.

I know "unable to" and "can not" mean the same, basically. But I'd like to know; if there is not even a slight difference between them.

For example, do the sentences below evoke exactly the same meaning to a native speaker ? :confused:

* Are you unable to sleep ?

* Can't you sleep ?

Thanks in advance
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well, they have the same meaning, yes. But "are you unable" has a stronger connotation, to me, of something physically preventing 'you' sleeping. It's also more formal, I think.

    2am in the Loob household
    Loob: Aaaargh!
    MrLoob: What's the matter - can't you sleep?
    Loob: No, I keep waking up, I don't know why.

    In the doctor's surgery
    Doctor: What's causing your sleeplessness, MrLoob? Are you unable to sleep because you're worrying about things?
    MrLoob: No, it's Loob's snoring that's the problem.

    In most situations, I'd be much more likely to use "can't you?"
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