I heard a sentence form BBC:

It CAN MEAN to extend, continue or progress beyond a particular thing or MEANS to extend or continue further than that thing or point.

Why not both "can mean"?

Is it better to use the same form of verbs in one sentence?

The context is quite simple. It's a BBC English-learning program teaching "behind" & "beyond". I'm using it as an intensive listening material.

The "it" refers "beyond", and the sentence explains the meanings of "beyond".

@Robusto suggested dropping the "means". I agree and think it may be the best.

  • 1
    I would probably strike the second means in that sentence.
    – Robusto
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 2:06

2 Answers 2


It can sometimes be difficult to interpret the meaning of phrases without context. It appears that in this example, "can mean" and "means" hold different definitions.

The phrase "can mean" does what we might think: it conveys meaning.

The other phrase, "means," could also be written as "a method"

For example, a car is a means of transportation, and a phone is a means of communication.

Therefore, whatever the sentence is discussing could be either "to extend beyond a thing" or "a method to extend beyond a thing."

  • I added the context.
    – Zhang Jian
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 1:28

The style rule of parallelism does suggest that, when comparing two things or making a list of similar things, it is better to use the same verb tense or part of speech for all the elements. Examples:

I prefer dining out at a restaurant to eating in at home.

His favorite activities are running marathons, feeding pigeons, and dancing the waltz.

At the meeting you will be expected to listen carefully, take notes, and keep an eye out for anything unusual.

In your example it's not clear whether these are two parallel conditions. The speaker could be saying the item can mean A, or else it does mean B. Another example:

I can meet you at 2 this afternoon, or let's meet at 4.

Here there are two separate possibilities. The first I present as an option, and the second as a suggestion.

In addition, parallelism only really applies in formal communication. On a more informal, unscripted television program, these kind of style rules are often overlooked as commentators speak naturally.

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