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'Can' and verbs of perception

First, having just finished the tree, I’d like to thank the contributors for making an enjoyble course. I feel like I have got a decent taste of the language, and the next step is to read some children's stories or something.

My no.1 annoyance, however, is the handling of the translation of verbs of perception into English. “I can see x” is not accepted as a translation of “x görüyorum” on this course - only “I see x” is accepted. As a British English speaker, I am used to using “I can see” to state that I am seeing something. It is completely unnatural to me to say “I see a school” - in speech, ‘can’ is almost always used (see: 'spoken English') and does not in itself place a special emphasis on the possibility of seeing or ability to see. This isn’t purely a British English issue, this way of speaking is used to some extent in American English too. e.g. from an American site

On this discussion course contributor AlexinNotTurkey gives the explanation that only verbs such as ‘görebilirim’ can be translated as “I can see”. I completely disagree with this - there is not necessarily any difference in meaning between “I see” and “I can see” in English (British or American). “I can see” can (expecially in American English) be a statement that my seeing is possible, but this is not usually the only possible interpretation. There is a good explanation of the tendency of ‘can’ to lose its modal meaning in the first paragraph here

Has anyone else encountered this problem on questions involving seeing and hearing (potentially feeling, too)? Does anyone else want to see the policy change?

November 29, 2016



I am still a bit hesitant to add that as an alternative for a few reasons.

1) It is a bit more colloquial in usage. I can imagine myself saying this and we do accept some colloquialisms. However, there is a cost to this being that it will cause a lot of confusing about "to be able to/can" both in our error reports and in the forums about what it actually can mean.

2) A very significant proportion of our users are non-native English speakers (I don't have these metrics, but if I had to guess, the majority are not native English speakers). Making a change like this will cause a bit of confusion on their part, especially if it were to pop up as an alternative answer.

3) It may not be worth the manpower to go in and add all of these as an alternative. As Eluvian_ and I are gearing up to push through a 2.0 version of the English for Turkish speakers (and eventually Turkish for English speakers) course, it would probably be more worthwhile to not use our unfortunately limited resources to go in an add all of these as an alternative, especially with points 1 and 2 considered.

That being said, I do understand how it can be frustrating, but as a service to our non-native English speakers and to help maintain our own sanity, I don't think we will add this. If you could give us this one though, it would mean the world :) It might be taken into consideration for the 2.0 course!


Hi Alex, thanks for your reply! Firstly, thanks for all your efforts in contributing to the course. I understand that this process is very difficult. Even if nothing comes of this, I still rate the course highly and would recommend it. Nevertheless, I’d like to briefly respond:

  1. By it’s nature, the thought “I /can see x” doesn’t have as much use in formal writing as in speech. Neither version is a less standard, or a more slangy or dialectical form of speech than the other. The sentences in question are often clearly intended to function as speech (“Can you hear the guide?”), so the language in them absolutely should be colloquial in the sense of ‘used in ordinary conversation’. The fact that these answers are rejected poses a particular problem for British English speakers. As I said above, as British English speaker, I would never naturally produce the words “Do you hear the guide?”, even if, for some reason, I had cause to express this thought in a formal manner.

  2. It’s unfortunate that it creates work for contributors, but I don’t think the confusing aspects of English should be hidden from beginners if they belong to the basic level of the language. People who are learning English are going to encounter this usage in the most basic conversations. Furthermore, isn’t insisting on this rule actually liable to distort learners’ understanding of basic English? If people learn that “I can see” means only görebilirim, they have learnt a falsehood.

I hope these versions are added, even if not in the short term, because I honesty think it would improve the quality of the course. I would be happy to compile a list of these sentences and to write alternative versions. To do this, I would need a list of list of the TR>EN, questions on the course. Thanks again.


Hey there!

I am coming from the sentence "Do you hear the guide?" and as you are a native English speaker you can be right about this matter. I'll ask more native speakers about this and try to learn the truth whether this can be correct or not. By the way, Alex is a native American English speaker. Thus I won't add these alternatives and I'll respect Alex's view since I am not a native English speaker. I hope Alex will write anything about this.



Thanks for the response, Eluvian!

This issue affects quite a few questions on this course - most of the questions where a form of görmek or duymak is translated into English. I think I have reported them all by now.

I'm going to start listing affected questions here when I find them:

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