can/be able to

mimi2

Senior Member
vietnam vietnamese
Hi,
With the sentence like this “We may not be able to give the concert.”, I am wondering why not “We can’t give the concert”. Is there any difference? Could you give me your explanations?
Thanks.
 
  • mimi2

    Senior Member
    vietnam vietnamese
    Thank you, Setwale Charm.
    I understand but why not saying "may not give the concert" why is it necessary to have "may not be able to"?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Thank you, Setwale Charm.
    I understand but why not saying "may not give the concert" why is it necessary to have "may not be able to"?
    "We may not give the concert" sounds like it is a matter of choice.

    "We may not be able to give the concert" sounds like there might be some outside force(s) that would prevent them from giving the concert.

    For example, if they were to say, "If all the seats are not sold, we may not give the concert", it sounds like they may decide not to give the concert because it will not be profitable enough. They could give it, but they may choose not to give it. If they say, "If all the seats are not sold, we may not be able to give the concert" it sounds like they will not have sufficient money to stage the concert unless all the seats are sold.
     

    Phil-Olly

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    On a technical note, it's maybe worth pointing out that "can" is a verb that is a bit restricted, e.g. it doesn't have a future tense or an infinitive (You can't say "to can")
    So, whereas you can say, "We can" or "We are able", you can only say:
    "We will be able to ..."
    "We may not be able to ..."
    "We would like to be able to ..." etc.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    On a technical note, it's maybe worth pointing out that "can" is a verb that is a bit restricted, e.g. it doesn't have a future tense or an infinitive (You can't say "to can")
    So, whereas you can say, "We can" or "We are able", you can only say:
    "We will be able to ..."
    "We may not be able to ..."
    "We would like to be able to ..." etc.
    More accurately, "can" is the irregular, present-tense form of the verb "to be able to". However it's correct to say that whereas "to be able to" is usable in all tenses, "can" is only usable in the present tense.

    "Could" is also an irregular form of the verb "to be able to", strictly speaking a conditional form, it's also sometimes used in the past, especially for general abilities.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    More accurately, "can" is the irregular, present-tense form of the verb "to be able to". However it's correct to say that whereas "to be able to" is usable in all tenses, "can" is only usable in the present tense.

    "Could" is also an irregular form of the verb "to be able to", strictly speaking a conditional form, it's also sometimes used in the past, especially for general abilities.
    I'm trying to think of one of those colourful expressions which cuchu uses to indicate vehement disagreement.

    I'm failing, so I'll just say "I vehemently disagree".

    EDIT: Reverting to the question: mimi2, you may find it helpful to think of "we may not be able to give the concert" as "it is possible that we will be unable to give the concert".
     
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