"Ce tapis peut venir d'Égypte."

Translation:This rug may come from Egypt.

March 28, 2018

This discussion is locked.


When is « peut » "can" or "may"?

Aside from the fact that « peut-être » is "maybe"


Only context. "Can" is not natural here at all. The present tense of "pouvoir" is natural French here to mean "may".


Yes, would appreciate a Mod explanation if someone gets a chance. I have the same question.


There have been several explanations from a mod. You might be unwilling to accept the explanations for unknown reasons, but I found them to be accurate and helpful. Thank you n6zs!

So here is a hint from a fellow user. I'm not a mod or a native speaker, so please let me know politely if you think I'm wrong, and you can help me learn.

The short answer is that peut can mean either ability (can), permission (may) or uncertainty (might). If you think about it, the same is true of the English verb "can".

  • I can speak French". (Ability)

  • She said I can talk now. (Permission)

  • These eggs can be cagefree or organic. (Uncertainty)

  • Pouvoir can mean several things in this sentence. (Uncertainty again, I couldn't resist!)

@SimonBell, your rudeness doesn't deserve a response.


I learnt, a very long time ago, that capital letters do not take an accent in French. So, the remark "Pay attention to the accents" sounds strange to my ears.


This is incorrect. Capital letters must take accents where the equivalent lower case letters use them.

The problem is that in the early days of computing, there was room for either upper case accented letters or lower case accented letters, but not both. Since there are more lower case letters per sentence than upper case, it was decided it would be more useful to include lower case accented letters than none at all.

So European computer users had to use the closest equivalents of the missing letters, which were the non-accented capital letters. After a few decades of this use, it started to seem correct, even though it was still wrong.

With the introduction of Unicode, this problem has been solved, as long as you type correctly.


  • Ça va ?
  • À bientôt !


  • Ca va ?
  • A bientôt !


Correct, and predating computers, we had the same problem with typewriters. I guess it was easier to change the rule than to change the technology.


I also was taught upper case letters did not have accents - and that was long before widespread computerisation!


Why is there no article in front of Egypte here?


This sentence doesnt really make sense.


I think it means that the speaker isn't sure that it comes from Egypt.


"may" = "might".

  • This carpet might come from Egypt.


Perhaps it doesn't make since if you focus on "peut" as "can" and stop there. Read the enter sentence and consider the meaning as a whole. Then you will see that it is saying that the rug may have come from Egypt. Rule #1: it's impossible to translate something if you don't know what it means. BTW, the French is natural and is understood as "may", not "can" here.


Could you also say "Ce tapis peut être venir de Égypte"? And could you also use "peut" to mean "may" in a sentence such as "Je peux aller le magasin"?


How is "This carpet could come from Egypt." significantly different from "This rug may come from Egypt." ? "Tapis" is listed as "carpet, rug" in my dictionary. "May come" and "could come" are essentially equivalent in English.


You will find that Duo leans somewhat toward a tighter interpretation of verb tenses and moods. So purists may argue that "peut" may be only "can" or "may", the sense in this sentence is, shall we say, iffy, i.e., it sounds like a conditional statement. Be aware, however, that the present tense of pouvoir is natural in French here and will be understood as "may" (but "could" or "might" convey the same idea in English).


You can report errors instead of posting a comment. It's much less likely that the editors will see your comment here.


Why is mat not accepted in place of rug or carpet?


what is wrong with "perhaps this rug comes from Egypt?"


It may mean the same thing, but it's a different sentence. We're translating words, not just meanings.

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