Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It's 100% free, no registration required.

This can be explained by ..

This could be explained by ..

Are these two interchangeable or do they conform to different situations?

Let's take for example the following two sentences:

All available classification schemes for internet trolls are incomplete. This can (could) be explained by the fact that the species is evolving rapidly.

Will both can and could look OK here?

share|improve this question

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Can makes a stronger statement, implying the speaker's belief in the correctness of the given explanation.

Could is much weaker, merely offering up a possibility.

Either one may certainly be used in that example, but there is a definite difference of meaning.

share|improve this answer
1  
I agree, "could" really says: "It is possible that this is an explanation". Where "can" is much closer to "It is an explanation" –  Cruncher Jun 6 at 19:37

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.