A: My laptop is dead.

B: Jack is back in the town.

  1. If you give him some money, he can fix it for you.

  2. If you give him some money, he’ll be able to fix it for you.

I think sentence 1 means that by giving him money, Jack’s fixing the laptop for A will become available or possible. He will have the willingness to do so. On the other hand, example 2 means that Jack needs the money to have the ability to fix it. He might need to buy some tools and materials with the money.

This is just my guess, and I m wondering if I am right.

1 Answer 1


In normal usage both sentences mean "If you give him some money, he will fix it for you."

Your meaning for sentence 2 is technically almost correct, but the logical meaning of if only works in one direction. The logical statement "If A then B" is true whenever B is true, so your sentence includes the possibility that Jack might not need the money to be able to do the job.

If we are being technical your sentence 1 is problematic because it claims that if you give Jack some money, which must be in the future, Jack can (now - at the present time) fix it for you.

As I indicated above, these technical comments are hardly ever relevant when the sentences are used.

If you want to be precise and not too formal, I would suggest

  1. He can fix it, but you'll need to pay him.
  2. He can fix it, but you'll need to cover his costs up front.

In 2. "his costs" include the costs of anything he would need to pay for, such as parts, tools or other materials. "Up front" is an idiom meaning that he needs to receive the money before he will start the work.

Be aware that "can" is sometimes context-dependent. "Jack can do something" might mean he has the knowledge, skill and fitness, or it might mean he has all these plus the equipment, materials, time and permission.

  • Is my interpretation for 1 wrong? Commented Jun 29 at 6:32
  • People often use "can" to mean "will" in statements like this. Note that "can" is technically about present ability, and "will" is about a future event, not about what Jack wants. Perhaps you mean "Jack can fix it, and if you give him some money he will be willing to fix it". This says he is (now) able to fix it and if you pay him he will have the willingness to do so.
    – Peter
    Commented Jun 29 at 6:45
  • What I want to say is he already has the ability to fix it, and “can” simply means that his fixing the computer will be possible if he gets paid. It has nothing to do with the gaining of the ability in the future. On the other hand, “will be able to” means that he doesn’t have the ability now and he needs the money to be able to fix the computer. Commented Jun 29 at 9:24
  • I have expanded the answer.
    – Peter
    Commented Jun 30 at 7:17

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