Can Can, v. t. & i.

Note: [The transitive use is obsolete.] [imp. {Could}.] [OE. cunnen, cannen (1st sing. pres. I can), to know, know how, be able, AS. cunnan, 1st sing. pres. ic cann or can, pl. cunnon, 1st sing. imp. c[=u][eth]e (for cun[eth]e); p. p. c[=u][eth] (for cun[eth]); akin to OS. Kunnan, D. Kunnen, OHG. chunnan, G. k["o]nnen, Icel. kunna, Goth. Kunnan, and E. ken to know. The present tense I can (AS. ic cann) was originally a preterit, meaning I have known or Learned, and hence I know, know how. [root]45. See {Ken}, {Know}; cf. {Con}, {Cunning}, {Uncouth}.] 1. To know; to understand. [Obs.] [1913 Webster]

I can rimes of Rodin Hood. --Piers Plowman. [1913 Webster]

I can no Latin, quod she. --Piers Plowman. [1913 Webster]

Let the priest in surplice white, That defunctive music can. --Shak. [1913 Webster]

2. To be able to do; to have power or influence. [Obs.] [1913 Webster]

The will of Him who all things can. --Milton. [1913 Webster]

For what, alas, can these my single arms? --Shak. [1913 Webster]

M[ae]c[ae]nas and Agrippa, who can most with C[ae]sar. --Beau. & Fl. [1913 Webster]

3. To be able; -- followed by an infinitive without to; as, I can go, but do not wish to.

Syn: {Can but}, {Can not but}. It is an error to use the former of these phrases where the sens requires the latter. If we say, ``I can but perish if I go,'' ``But'' means only, and denotes that this is all or the worst that can happen. When the apostle Peter said. ``We can not but speak of the things which we have seen and heard.'' he referred to a moral constraint or necessety which rested upon him and his associates; and the meaning was, We cannot help speaking, We cannot refrain from speaking. This idea of a moral necessity or constraint is of frequent occurrence, and is also expressed in the phrase, ``I can not help it.'' Thus we say. ``I can not but hope,'' ``I can not but believe,'' ``I can not but think,'' ``I can not but remark,'' etc., in cases in which it would be an error to use the phrase can but. [1913 Webster]

Yet he could not but acknowledge to himself that there was something calculated to impress awe, . . . in the sudden appearances and vanishings . . . of the masque --De Quincey. [1913 Webster]

Tom felt that this was a rebuff for him, and could not but understand it as a left-handed hit at his employer. --Dickens. [1913 Webster]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • could — [ weak kəd, strong kud ] modal verb *** Could is usually followed by an infinitive without to : I m glad you could come. Sometimes it is used without a following infinitive: I came as quickly as I could. Could does not change its form, so the… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • could — W1S1 [kəd strong kud] modal v negative short form couldn t ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 1¦(past ability)¦ 2¦(possibility)¦ 3¦(emphasizing your feelings)¦ 4¦(requesting)¦ 5¦(suggesting)¦ 6¦(annoyance)¦ 7 couldn t be better/worse/more pleased etc 8 I couldn t …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • could — [kood] v.aux. [altered (infl. by WOULD, SHOULD) < ME coud < OE cuthe (akin to Goth kuntha, OHG konda, ON kunna), pt. of cunnan, to be able: see CAN1] 1. pt. of CAN1 [he gave what he could give] 2 …   English World dictionary

  • could — modal auxiliary. 1. See can. It functions as (1) the past tense of can, as in We could see for miles, (2) as a conditional equivalent to would be able to, as in I could take you in the car if you like, and (3) as a more tentative form of can in… …   Modern English usage

  • Could — (k??d), imp. of {Can}. [OF. coude. The l was inserted by mistake, under the influence of should and would.] Was, should be, or would be, able, capable, or susceptible. Used as an auxiliary, in the past tense or in the conditional present. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • could — could; could·est; …   English syllables

  • could — O.E. cuðe, pt. of cunnan to be able (see CAN (Cf. can) (v.)); ending changed 14c. to standard English d(e). The excrescent l was added 15c. 16c. on model of would, should, where it is historical …   Etymology dictionary

  • could — [[t]kəd, STRONG kʊd[/t]] ♦ (Could is a modal verb. It is used with the base form of a verb. Could is sometimes considered to be the past form of can, but in this dictionary the two words are dealt with separately.) 1) MODAL You use could to… …   English dictionary

  • could */*/*/ — strong UK [kʊd] / US weak UK [kəd] / US modal verb Summary: Could is usually followed by an infinitive without to : I m glad you could come. Sometimes it is used without a following infinitive: I came as quickly as I could. Could does not change… …   English dictionary

  • could */*/*/ — weak [kəd] , strong [kʊd] modal verb summary: ■ Could is used as the past tense of can when it means that someone had the ability to do something, or that something was possible: The Roman army could march 30 miles in a day. ■ Could is usually… …   Dictionary for writing and speaking English

  • could — strong /kUd/ modal verb 3rd person singular couldnegative short form couldn t 1 the past tense of can : Could you hear that all right? | I couldn t get tickets after all, they were sold out. | Marcia said we could smoke, it was okay with her. see …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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