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should I use "can" or "could" : "S

 
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hereinchina



Joined: 29 May 2009
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:41 pm    Post subject: should I use "can" or "could" : "S Reply with quote

Hello,
I'm not sure if I should use the word "could" or "can" in the following sentence:
"Seeing blood sends a chill down my spine, that's why I "could / can" never become doctor."
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3008
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One would use 'could' here to either signal temporal remoteness (i.e. "This happened in the past") or factual remoteness/unreality/an imagined situation at a remove as it were from the present/current reality (i.e. "This by virtue of the remote form used is obviously not a real possibility"), both of which are in clear contrast to the non-remote form 'can', which the speaker might be using for reasons like the following: "My father is a doctor and is still pressuring me to follow in his footsteps, so I have to rule out that current or future real possibility by emphasizing my squeamishness", or "Much as I'd love to become a doctor, my squeamishness at the sight of blood makes my hands shake too much for it to be safe for me to wield a scalpel".

Last edited by fluffyhamster on Sat Jun 25, 2011 7:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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hereinchina



Joined: 29 May 2009
Posts: 115

PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 4:50 pm    Post subject: thank you Reply with quote

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.
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