what China can/could do with technology [tense]

Irelia20150604

Senior Member
Chinese
Source: AT&T Drops Huawei’s New Smartphone Amid Security Worries

SHANGHAI — With an advanced screen, a special artificial-intelligence microchip and an eye-popping price, the newest smartphone from Huawei Technologies was meant to show Americans what China can do with technology.

Instead, Huawei’s push to sell the phone in the United States has suddenly lost a powerful backer — and the push has attracted some unwanted scrutiny from Washington.
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Hi everyone! What would be the difference if I rewrote "can" as "could"?

Does "could" imply "China could do in the past but can't at present"?

My reference: protects/protected [tense]

I think you are looking for a "reported speech backshift" when you suggest "protected." However, "protects" seems to have been used to avoid the confusion of the possible meaning of "used to protect" that "protected" can carry.
 
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Hi everyone! What would be the difference if I rewrote "can" as "could"?
    The sentence would tell me the speaker finds it less likely that China will do that with technology.
    Does "could" imply "China could do in the past but can't at present"?
    No, not in this context.
    Besides, it hardly makes sense to say that a nation has lost technological capabilities it once had. It is not the natural direction of technological advancement. :) You learn more over time, you do not forget what you once knew. :)
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The problem with could here is that it would probably be understood conditionally - what China could do with technology if it had any.

    I suspect there is a strong tendency to intepret would and could conditionally unless there is clear evidence that this is the wrong interpretation, and that the evidence must be grammatical not semantic.
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Hi everyone! What would be the difference if I rewrote "can" as "could"?

    Does "could" imply "China could do in the past but can't at present"?
    Could is not the past tense of can.

    As se16teddy says, could expresses a conditional or a lesser probability. - Could is called a modal verb because it expresses "modality" - not "tense."
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    But it seems to be more likely to suggest unpredictability (greater unpredictability than that suggested by "can") than conditionality in that context - - we do know the phone was launched.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Well, it generally is, Paul :oops:.
    I think that is what a lot of people are taught. And they are taught that way as it is "easy" despite it not being so.

    This idea of modality is usually not taught until graduate level as the idea that can/may/will do not have tenses is rather complex, even though we know that they do not have tenses and that canned, mayed, and willed do not exist.

    When I was younger I could jump that wall. (conditional past)
    If I were fit I could jump that wall. (conditional present)
    When I am fit I could jump that wall (conditional future)

    I can jump that wall (I have jumped that wall (or something of that height) in the past and believe that I can do it now and in the future.)
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    We very frequently use with with would and could to specify a condition. I could do a lot with a thousand pounds almost invariably means If I had a thousand pounds I would be able to do a lot and practically never means When I had a thousand pounds I was able to do a lot. I am not sure whether the "strong tendency" I referred to in #3 goes any wider than this.
     
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    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    We very frequently use with with could to specify a condition. I could do a lot with a thousand pounds almost invariably means If I had a thousand pounds I would be able to do a lot and practically never means When I had a thousand pounds I was able to do a lot. I am not sure whether the "strong tendency" I referred to in #2 goes any wider than this.
    Thanks. But the key phrase in my post was "in that context".
    I agree with your interpretation of your sentence, though.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Note how "When I was younger I could stay up all night and not get tired." has the condition of being younger. It so happens that a lot of references take place in the past and this is what gives rise to the idea of "tense".
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    the newest smartphone from Huawei Technologies was meant to show Americans what China could do with technology.
    But it seems to be more likely to suggest unpredictability (greater unpredictability than that suggested by "can") than conditionality in that context - - we do know the phone was launched.
    Could is conditional here and the underlying structure is a type 2 conditional.
    Could is used instead of would to indicate that there is a wide range of possibilities (unpredictability).
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    Could is conditional here and the underlying structure is a type 2 conditional.
    Could is used instead of would to indicate that there is a wide range of possibilities (unpredictability).
    Hmm, we seem to be on the same page. I agree with your point about a wide range of possibilities (unpredictability) - - it was the highlighted part below that I disagreed with (because of the context).

    what China could do with technology if it had any.
    I think the conditionality there is about other things rather than having technology. For example, what China could do with technology if it wanted to/in different situations.
     
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    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    When I was younger I could jump that wall. (conditional past).
    I don't read this as conditional. I classify as deontic past tense.
    Present: I am young so I can jump the wall.
    Past: When I was younger I could jump the wall.

    Not to be confused with the epistemic past tense. In epistemic senses, the can/could distinction expresses degree of certainty, not tense.
    Present: That can't/could be true.
    Past: That can't/could have been true.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I take your point but there is the problem with tenses and modals - they can be stretched but if you want a past tense, I would go with When I was younger I was able to jump the wall.
     
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