What could excite you the most right this very moment?

What can excite you the most right this very moment?

How the usage of "could" and "can" make the meaning of the sentence different? How can and could should be used?

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    Native speakers are more likely use the auxiliary verb "What would excite you most right now?" if they were going to use that general form at all. But in practice we'd probably be even more likely to ask "What would you find most exciting right now?" (Just as we tend to say "This is exciting!" rather than "This excites me!"). Jul 12, 2014 at 12:49

2 Answers 2


Let me preface this by saying that I wasn't taught the following heuristic formally, it's just part of my own strategy for selecting which words to use and likely differs from others understanding of these words.

I like to think words like these fall into a range of how much uncertainty they express, where "might" would be at the most uncertain end and "will" would be at the most certain end. "Could" conveys more certainty than "might" and "can" conveys more certainty than "could." Towards the more certain end of the range would be "would" and "should."

With that said, the use of "could" and "can" in this situation would most likely be interpreted as equivalent as the distinctions are subtle.


"What would excite you the most right now?" seems better to my (American) ear.

The question presumes that at least one thing would be certain to excite the person being asked, so the helper verb should be at the certain end of Obfuskater's uncertainty spectrum. The question is hypothetical, so "would" is more appropriate than "will".

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