To improve my pronunciation, I was trying to imitate a native speaker friend and found some pronunciation is difficult for me to speak. I said this to him

I can hear it, even it is spoken very fast by native speakers, I just can't speak it fast

should have I said it like this

I hear it, even it is ...

Which one is more natural? Are there other ways more natural to convey that idea?

A similar situation is that, another learner lacks listening practice and can't/don't follow native speakers when they speak fast.

  • Hearing it and understanding it are not the same thing. I think you mean to say that I can understand (or follow) it..... Can indicates your ability to...and is better included although not necessary. Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 15:21
  • @RonaldSole Thank you. I am trying to talk about pronunciation. How do I make it clearer?
    – JQQ
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 20:59

1 Answer 1


Neither of these is wrong. They are different. They mean different things. When you use the word ‘can’ you are speaking of your ability. When you leave the word ‘can’ out you were speaking of what has happened to you.

So the person that says ‘I hear it’ indicates that this has happened to him lots of times and during those times he has heard it. The person that says ‘I can hear it’ indicating that he has an ability to do this thing.

Here is a different example:

"I can eat soup"


"I eat soup".

The second would be a good answer to, "What do you have for lunch." It would indicate something you do repeatedly. The first would indicate a lack of allergies or physical defect, making it possible for you to eat soup. Or, in another context, an inability to afford something that costs more than soup. (As in, "I can't eat steak for lunch, I'm on a hard budget. I can eat soup.")

  • Thank you. Your answer is very informative. Would you please elaborate the example of "hear /can hear" a little bit?
    – JQQ
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 22:04
  • 2
    So if you were listening for a given sound, and had been struggling for a while, and then got a couple in a row right, you might say, "I can hear it!"... you now judge yourself able to hear it. Whereas if someone were to criticize a fellow language learner, because they always put in an extra sound where English didn't have one, you could nod your head and say, "I hear it." The second one means "It happens to me routinely" (I hear it). The first means, "I can perform the task," (I can hear it). Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 23:25

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