I was wondering which sentence seems to make more sense.

Gel is commonly found by killing monsters that carry gel with them.


Gel can be commonly found by killing monsters that carry gel with them.

'Is' is a third-person singular verb of 'be', and 'be' is defined as 'exist'. While the gel isn't really "in existence" when the person reads the sentence, I believe it should be 'can'.

All my definitions are from Google Dictionary.


First off, both sentences are equally grammatical, make sense, and for all intents and purposes mean the same thing. The combination of "can" with "commonly" doesn't sit well with me, though. I'd prefer to either say it can be found, or is commonly found, but not a mix of the two. But that's really a question of style.

Secondly, your confusion stems from the fact that you think the verb "be" carries any meaning here. It does not. It is merely a helper verb that is used to form the passive voice. It does not imply or suggest the gel exists. It does not imply or suggest anything. It serves a purely grammatical function, not a semantic one.

Thirdly, in either sentence the repetition of "gel" is clumsy and grinding on the ears. You should replace the second occurrence with a pronoun (it). But this is once again a question of style and not grammar.

Lastly, the "with them" bit is superfluous (of course they carry it with themselves, who else would they carry it with?), and for that matter so is the "that carry it" bit (of course you can't find gel by killing a monster that doesn't carry it!). If you want to emphasize the fact that it's only some monsters and not others that carry gel with them, you could say just that: "some monsters", or "certain monsters".

So, in conclusion:

  • Gel is commonly found by killing monsters.
  • Gel can be found by killing certain monsters.

Your two examples both use the infinitive verb "to be" - the first uses the present (is) and the second introduces a conditional element (can be). In this instance I believe you are weighing up how definitive the action is as a piece of advice; is it an action you should almost always consider, or only on occasion? If the answer is the former I'd go with the definitive "is," and if it's the latter, the more conditional "can be." Since the gel is "commonly found," I'd go with "is."

  • The first sentence is really all wrong. You really mean to say something like "Your two examples both use forms of the verb to be. The first one uses the simple-present third-person singular is, and the second one the infinitive modified by a modal verb." If you are not sure what the terms are, just don't use any. Especially since that entire bit is superfluous anyway, it just describes what we're seeing, so I'd just kill it and cut to the chase. Likewise, "conditional" has a very specific meaning in grammar (think clauses with "if").
    – ЯegDwight
    Dec 4 '14 at 11:29

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