How <could he not><couldn't he><can he not><can't he> know

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JJXR

Senior Member
Russian
Hello to all,

Thanks for reading my post.


Context:

John has just told Bob that he knows a lot about warfare. Bob doesn't know that John fought in Vietnam for three years, so he doesn't believe John. Bob tells Bill that he thinks John doesn't know anything about warfare. Bill knows that John fought in Vietnam for three years. Bill replies to Bob with one of the sentences below.

Sample sentences:

1. How could he not know anything about warfare if he fought in Vietnam for three years?

2. How couldn't he know anything about warfare if he fought in Vietnam for three years?

3. How can he not know anything about warfare if he fought in Vietnam for three years?

4. How can't he know anything about warfare if he fought in Vietnam for three years?

Question:

Do the bolded parts work in the sample sentences in the context given?


Thanks a lot for any comments, corrections or suggestions!

Regards,
JJXR
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, JJXR. The first version sounds a little more likely than the others do, but none of those sentences sounds particularly natural to me. If I made a similar comment in that situation, I'd probably phrase it this way: Why wouldn't he know anything about war? After all, he did three tours in Vietnam.
     
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