can


can
can vb Can, may are often confused in use.
In its commonest sense can expresses ability, whether physical or mental
{

he can climb this pole

}
{

he is only four, but he can read

}
{

he will do it if he possibly can

}
{

when Duty whispers low, thou must, the youth replies, I canEmerson

}
But can may imply ability that is granted (as by the will of the people or one in authority)
{

the law does all that is needed when it does all that it canJustice Holmes

}
May fundamentally expresses not ability but possibility
{

he may go if the day is pleasant

}
{

you may be right

}
When the possibility depends for its fulfillment on the permission or sanction of another, may is the usual term
{

I shall call tomorrow if I may

}
{

you may go, if you wish

}
{

may we take your coach to town?— Thackeray

}
The use of can for may in asking or granting permission is widespread.

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Can — Can, v. t. & i. Note: [The transitive use is obsolete.] [imp. {Could}.] [OE. cunnen, cannen (1st sing. pres. I can), to know, know how, be able, AS. cunnan, 1st sing. pres. ic cann or can, pl. cunnon, 1st sing. imp. c[=u][eth]e (for cun[eth]e); p …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Can — Can, n. [OE. & AS. canne; akin to D. Kan, G. Kanne, OHG. channa, Sw. Kanna, Dan. kande.] 1. A drinking cup; a vessel for holding liquids. [Shak. ] [1913 Webster] Fill the cup and fill can, Have a rouse before the morn. Tennyson. [1913 Webster] 2 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Can — may refer to:* Can (band) ** Can (album) * Tin can, an airtight metal container usually storing food * Beverage can * Joacim Cans, member of the band HammerFall * Buttocks, a body part * The act of canning, a process of preserving food * An… …   Wikipedia

  • CAN — may refer to:* CAN bus, the Controller Area Network bus, a broadcast shared serial bus for microcontrollers used mainly in the automotive applications;Organizations * The Andean Community of Nations * Campus Antiwar Network * Capital Alumni… …   Wikipedia

  • can-do — adj. having an eager willingness to accept and overcome challenges; as, a can do kind of person; the city s indomitable optimism and can do spirit. [slang] [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Can — (k[a^]n), an obs. form of began, imp. & p. p. of {Begin}, sometimes used in old poetry. Note: [See {Gan}.] [1913 Webster] With gentle words he can faile gree. Spenser. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Can't — A colloquial contraction for can not. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Can — Can, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Canned}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Canning}.] To preserve by putting in sealed cans [U. S.] Canned meats W. D. Howells. [1913 Webster] {Canned goods}, a general name for fruit, vegetables, meat, or fish, preserved in hermetically …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • can — I. verb (past could; present singular & plural can) Etymology: Middle English (1st & 3d singular present indicative), from Old English; akin to Old High German kan (1st & 3d singular present indicative) know, am able, Old English cnāwan to know… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • can — See: AS BEST ONE CAN, CATCH AS CATCH CAN …   Dictionary of American idioms


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.