One of my stu­dents barged into my class­room one day and was get­ting on my nerves be­cause I needed to clean up the mess he had him­self made ear­lier, so I wanted to ask him to leave me alone and go away.

Which of these two pos­si­ble ways of ask­ing him to leave would be more nat­u­ral for me to use in this sit­u­a­tion? Do they mean the same thing? Is one bet­ter?

  1. Will you just go?
  2. Can you just go?

If both are gram­mat­i­cal con­struc­tions that a na­tive speaker would rou­tinely use, then which if ei­ther is pre­ferred for this par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stance and why? Is this the nor­mal way to ex­press what I want to say, and if not, then what would be bet­ter?

  • 2
    Both are grammatical, it's a matter of personal taste which one you prefer to use. I might tell someone "get outta here" if I was feeling particularly annoyed and wasn't afraid of the possible consequences that my rudeness might incur. – Mari-Lou A Jan 27 '19 at 9:20
  • 1
    An interesting aspect about this question is that both modals are being used in a special way: this is ɴᴏᴛ the will used to describe future events. Instead, here it’s actually the will that means “wants to” or “would like to”. In the Greek technobabble of formal linguistics, this is thus the so-called deontic mode, a more piquant flavor of portraying the world as we would ʜᴀᴠᴇ it be, not the simpler “expected” one. It covers “permissions and volitions”—so things like commands, wants, wishes, desires, promises, or even threats. – tchrist Jan 27 '19 at 16:49

"Will you leave?" leaves the choice of leaving to the student, as it is asking if student would leave.

"Can you leave?" is asking if the student has the ability to leave.

In terms of actual meaning, there is a slight difference between the two phrases, but there isn't one that is really better than the other. In both of the phrases, the context and tone matter more than the words being used. So, both will get your message across.

Another way of conveying your message could also be "Please leave." Instead of asking the student, you could just tell the student what you want him to do. Though, this may come off harsher than either of the questions you listed above.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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