There are two sentences.

  1. You can possibly do this.
  2. You possibly can do this.

I have heard that there are some differences in the two sentences using the auxiliary verb of the different place. What is the difference between the two sentences in meaning? Please, teach me.

  • You can possibly do this is more idiomatic. Feb 13, 2018 at 21:33

2 Answers 2


Yes, I would interpret these differently.

You can possibly do this.

The difference is in the emphasis, what the reader focuses on. This sentence emphasizes "you can". Therefore you are saying "you can do this", with a subtle caveat of "possibly". The "possibly" is subtle, a slight doubt introduced to indicate not to be 100% sure. You can do this, I'm 90% sure.

You possibly can do this.

This sentence emphasizes "you possibly". You are saying yes, this is possible but unlikely. You perhaps, if the conditions are right, might be able to do this but it is highly unlikely.

Both sentences basically mean the same thing, but for native English there is a very subtle difference between them. This is indicated in spoken English by inflection. I would say " you POSSIBLY can do this" to emphasize the significant word.


Oddly, you might think, the word "possibly" casts doubt on the plain assertion "you can do this". It suggests that actually you may not be able to do this, or, at least, that there is some question about whether you might be able to do it.

I think that both could be used quite grammatically but much would depend on the tone of voice. The second, to my ears, carries the suggestion that even you might be able to do it, but probably not. The first is slightly less doubtful about your personal abilities.

These are very subtle distinctions that might not be noticed.

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