Does the sentence in bold sound unnatural?

A: The new bathtub will arrive at the store in February. Jack is trying to figure out how to transport it home. He won’t be able to drive his car because it will be at the repair shop.

B: Well, his sister Judy will be back in about two weeks. If she lends him her truck, he can bring the bathtub home next month.

2 Answers 2


I don't think "will be able to" would make the sentence unnatural. We can use "can" for ability, but it is used for possibility as well. So, if you keep "can" in your sentence, it could have two different meanings. However, if you use "will be able to" instead, it will only refer to ability. So, I think "will be able to" is better here.

  • I understand what you mean. Do you think using "can" here sounds very unnatural? Commented Jan 23 at 7:55
  • No, it doesn't. We sometimes use can to speak of a future possibility. Commented Jan 23 at 9:24
  • Perhaps I'm missing a trick here, but I'd have thought can only refers to "future ability", as in If it's sunny tomorrow he can play outside. For "future possibility", surely that would be If it's sunny tomorrow he could / might play outside. Consider the same context, but with an inanimate subject where future possibility is natural, but future ability isn't. If the jet stream shifts, it could / might rain next week is fine for a future POSSIBILITY, but future ABILITY ...it can rain next week makes no sense to me. Commented Jan 29 at 18:11
  • dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/can You can check it here. Cambridge says we can use 'can' for possibility.
    – Ali E
    Commented Jan 31 at 7:04

The sentence with "can" sounds perfectly natural. The modal verb "can" is used for present and future time. It is used to express permission, possibility/certainty, and ability.

  • He can drive his sister's truck (permission, possibility, ability)
  • He could drive his sister's truck. (possibility/uncertainty in the present or ability in the past.)

He can use his sister's truck.

There are several possible interpretations

  1. someone has given permission for him to use his sister's truck.
  2. The speaker is expressing their level of certainty of doing something in the present.
  3. The speaker is referring to someone's ability to drive his sister's truck.

He can use his sister's truck next week.

This expresses permission/certainty/possibility/ability in the future

If she lends him her truck, he can bring the bathtub home next month.

This conditional sentence refers to a future time:
permission he needs his sister's permission
possibility from next month he can use his sister's truck to transport the bathtub
ability the capability to transport the bathtub on condition he borrows his sister's truck next month

  • Does this one also work? "If the new policy gets passed next week, he can visit Taiwan by entering from a third country." Commented Jan 23 at 10:08
  • Yes "can" works there too but I would say....*via* a third country. will be able to visit is also appropriate and sounds slightly more formal.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 23 at 10:18
  • How about this one: “If we work hard enough, we can make people believe in us again next year.” Suppose I am the leader of a party that’s preparing for the election next year. Commented Jan 23 at 11:33
  • 1
    @ChienTeLu How many other examples are you going to give me after I respond to this one? Please edit your question and explain why you think "can" is a problem when referring to the future.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 23 at 11:35
  • Chill. Just wondering if “can” works in the last example of the speech of the party leader. Commented Jan 23 at 11:40

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