I have been reading the book, "HOUGHTON MIFFLIN Reading, Here We Go".

Situation: A girl is taking a walk with a puppy named Ben. A puddle comes out. All the text of the part with Ben is very short:

Ben is my pet. Ben can not get wet. Is Ben at the vet? Ben is not at the vet yet. Ben can get in a pen. A vet can get a kit. What can a vet do for Ben?

What is the meaning of "can" in the following sentences?

Ben is my pet. Ben can not get wet.

Does "Ben can not get wet" mean "Ben does not want to get wet"? I think that the meaning of all "can" come out here is not "possibility or ability" but a different meaning.

In this sentence, does "can" mean "want"?

  • Here are some of the sentences from this book. A man named Sam hit the ball with a bat. The ball is flying high above the sky. but, in this book, "Sam can hit" is expressed. . I think we should say "Sam hit" or "Sam has hit" ..! The sentences in this book are almost like this.
    – user22046
    Apr 13, 2017 at 1:34
  • 2
    Andrew's answer is good. There are situations where a pet should not be allowed to become wet, especially in a puddle (in relation to a vet, for example, needing to stay clean for a medical procedure or to not expose a wound to infection). "Can not get wet" in this context means can not be allowed to become wet. "A vet can get a kit. What can a vet do for Ben?" implies that is the meaning.
    – fixer1234
    Apr 13, 2017 at 5:22

2 Answers 2


The entire paragraph is a play on words that rhyme with "pet", or "ben". It's not necessarily meant to make sense.

In this case "Ben can not get wet" means that you should not allow Ben to become wet, but it's still an unusual thing to say.

  • 6
    Not to be stating the obvious, but I feel like this should be mentioned. This book is obviously intended for beginner readers. Every word is one syllable and there are no long vowel sounds. With such constraints, "usual" constructs are inevitable. I wouldn't call this so much a "play on words" but a reading exercise for someone who is just learning how to put words together. This is likely Lesson 1 or 2 of many lessons that build on each other.
    – J.R.
    Apr 13, 2017 at 9:06

I concur with the others, that the implied meaning (in a context matching the monosyllabic format of the original text) is "Ben must not get wet."

(I would put most or all of this in a Comment for the Question, but do not have the appropriate Reputation yet.)

You originally asked whether it could mean "Ben does not want to get wet" - perhaps that would be a way of conveying, from Ben's perspective, the same as "must not" (in which case an accompanying picture might be, for example, Ben shaking its head at the puddle - Ben refusing to get wet).

Another meaning of "can not" or "cannot" (which you probably already knew, since you asked the question in the first place) would, in this context, require something to be special about Ben the puppy, or only realistic if Ben were a duck or some other species with naturally water-resistant covering: the idea that it is physically impossible for Ben to get wet.

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