All of the grammar books I've read say I have to use 'could' for making suggestions, but none of them say so about 'can'. My question is: Is it valid to use 'can' for making suggestions? For example:

We can take the train

Instead of We could take the train

Both sound correct (for me), the way I see it is that the variant with 'could' sound more polite than the variant with 'can'. The first variant sounds even more natural (for me again) when I add another clause:

We can take the train if you want to

Thanks :)

2 Answers 2


Yes, using "can" is a common way of making a suggestion, or implying one by giving a possible choice. It's very casual/friendly/informal.

Both can be used to make a suggestion. One difference is that "We can take the train" can also be used to assert what we're going to do, rather than merely making a suggestion. "We could take the train" cannot be used in this way, so where there's ambiguity, "could" is clearer that it's a suggestion, not an assertion.

  • When making a suggestion: If so what is the difference between: “We can take the train” & “We could take the train”
    – LE HANH
    Mar 24, 2023 at 5:27
  • 1
    @LEHANH I've added a paragraph to my answer
    – gotube
    Mar 24, 2023 at 18:29

Shall we [take the train? or whatever] is often used for suggestions.

Although you can use "Can" as in "Can we take the train?", that is really more about the possibility of taking the train as opposed to, say, driving to a place.

  • “Could we take the train?” is the same ?
    – LE HANH
    Mar 25, 2023 at 9:10
  • @LEHANH Could is "more conditional" than can.
    – Lambie
    Mar 25, 2023 at 14:23
  • Sorry, I don’t get the meaning of “more conditional “
    – LE HANH
    Mar 25, 2023 at 14:25
  • 1
    @LEHANH If I can go by car, I will go by car. If I could go by car, I would go by car.
    – Lambie
    Mar 25, 2023 at 14:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .