As this dictionary says can is used with the verbs see, hear, feel, taste, and smell, and with verbs connected with thinking, to mean that someone sees something, hears something etc. For exapmple:

Here they are – I can see their car.

I can’t understand why you’re so upset.

Can you smell something burning?

But what if I omit can from the sentences, for example:

Here they are – I see their car.

I don't understand why you’re so upset.

Do you smell something burning?

Is there is any difference in meaning between the sentences? If there is, then help me to see one please.

  • Your second two sentences are poor examples of what (I think) you're asking because you're not just removing can, you're actually replacing it with something else. That's different from what the title of your question is asking—and also different from the scenario given in your first sentence. Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


I believe that in your examples there is no difference. Because people will interpret it correctly. But strictly speaking when you add can it could point to someone having an ability to do a certain thing, and adding the word can would thus change the meaning of the sentence..

For example:

I can see colours


I see colours

The first one would mean that I have normal vision and can see / distinguish colours. But the second one means that I am seeing colours at this moment.

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