1. He is so hungry that he could eat a horse.

  2. He is so hungry that he can eat a horse.

I want to know if I can interchange the idiom "could eat a horse" to "can eat a horse".

  • 3
    Using the past form (could) creates a distance from reality. So, could expresses something that is more unlikely to be true. – user178049 Jan 22 '17 at 9:18
  • 1
    @user178049 - Yes, or is less likely to happen. The original version reads like hyperbole – we understand that the person is unlikely to eat any part of a horse, much less an entire horse. The modified version creates an impression that the speaker is being more serious. I'd expect that usage in a sentence like: He gets so hungry he can eat an entire pizza. – J.R. Jan 22 '17 at 9:27

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