Suppose I have the following two cases somewhere in an English text:

  • ... the (article) + WORD (?) + can (auxiliary) ...
  • ... can (auxiliary) + WORD (?) + cats (noun) ...

Is there any possibility that WORD in the first case is not a noun?

Is there any possibility that WORD in the second case is not a verb?

If yes, give me an example please.

(And sorry about the unclear title, but I cannot find a better one)

1 Answer 1


For the first example it nearly always must be a noun in that position. The article "the" is followed by a noun phrase. If the noun phrase consists of just one word, that word must be a noun. It might be possible to create some artificial sentences with an adverbial "the":

The more carrots he eats, the better can he see!

Now, in this sentence "the" isn't an article, it's an adverb so this doesn't technically fulfil your requirement, but it might be close enough.

In the second case, it is quite easy to have,

Can the cats play tennis?

Can most cats play tennis?

The word "the" or "most" are determiners and not verbs.

You might be able to achieve this with a rhetorical inversion:

In the hole can the cats hide.

This is an example of a rhetorical technique called Anastrophe, changing the normal order can be done for emphasis. This is not a good example of anastrophe, I've adapted it from a well-known example "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit" (Tolkein)

  • Thank you for your fast and amazing answer. What if the second case is: ... noun + can (auxiliary) + WORD (?) + cats (noun) ...
    – Abdulkader
    Dec 13, 2019 at 22:25
  • But in the most cases ... noun + can (auxiliary) + WORD (?) + cats (noun) ..., the WORD here is a verb, right?
    – Abdulkader
    Dec 13, 2019 at 22:48
  • Well this is now the second change that you are making to your question in the comments. Sure, in most cases, but not in all cases. Rhetorical inversions are part of English. noun + can (auxiliary) + WORD (?) + cats (noun) does not always mean that the word is a verb. It could be a determiner, as in my example. The big message here is that you must always consider the whole sentence, and not just short sequences of words when you try to parse a sentence.
    – James K
    Dec 13, 2019 at 22:59

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