you are not allowed to play the football in the house

stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

The son is play the football in the house, and then his dad says:
You can't play the football in the house.
I feel it is awkward, because can and cannot indicate the ability.
What do you think?

Besides, can the father say like this:
You are not allowed to play the football in the house;
You must not play the football in the house;
You should not play the football in the house?

Are they natural? <no, we don't answer that>
Thanks
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    stephenlearner. You are asking about a usage that was once used by schoolmasters to torment small boys who wanted to go to the toilet, but is no more:

    Boy. Sir, Sir can I go to the toilet?
    Master. Yes.
    (Boy stands up and heads for the door.)
    Master. Where are you going to, boy?
    Boy. Sir, to the toilet Sir, you said I could.
    Master. No boy, I said you can go to the toilet, but I did not say that you may go. Sit down.

    This distinction is commonly ignored in normal, everyday English, with "can" being used to indicate permission rather than capability. Your father is using normal English, apart from saying "the football" - it should be just "football". (and the boy is playing football)

    Please search for can may and read some of the threads that deal with these two verbs.
     
    Last edited:

    trastu

    Senior Member
    British English
    You are correct in saying that can and cannot are used to indicate ability but they are also used to indicate whether one is allowed to do something or not.

    Therefore, I would naturally say the following:

    "You can't play football in the house" (omitting the word 'the').
    "You are not allowed to play football in the house".
    "You must not play football in the house".

    Your last example "You should not play football in the house" is less definite.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I think "you should" means "here is my advice, but you can (or may) make your own decision"—probably not what a father would say to discipline his child.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top