is this meaning the same?

"How do I (verb)" and "How can I (verb)".

  • They are very close. The first is asking "How to do something" - asking for instructions, while the second can have the feeling of "How can I possibly do something" - it can have the sound of someone about to give it depending on context. The first can be used this way too, but I hear it more often as the second. Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 22:35
  • The question is way too broad without specific examples and what the problem or concern is.
    – user3169
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 22:54

1 Answer 1


The difference between the two is subtle. "How do I rent a car?" is asking for instructions, what steps to take to rent a car. "How can I rent a car?" could also be used to ask for instructions, but the word "can" is usually more about having the ability to do something. So you might ask "How can I rent a car?" if you think you aren't able to rent one - for instance, if you know you don't have enough money or there are no car rental places close to you.

  • "How can I rent a car" can also be a kind of moral question, with an implied second part like so: "How can I rent a car [when everyone else has to walk to the party]?"
    – hairboat
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 23:40

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