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Why is it wrong?

10 replies   
1. We could find the right address.

This sentence is supposed to be wrong.

2. We managed to find the right address.

This sentence is suppose to be correct.

- Why is that? Why is sentence one found to be wrong?
Authornerd13 Jul 08, 16:53
I don't know what your teacher's intentions are, but presumably Nr. 1 is wrong because it usually means something different than what you wanted to say. "We could" is hardly ever used for "wir konnten, because "We could find ..." = "Wir könnten ... finden."

You could have said "We were able to find ..."
#1Authordude (253248) 13 Jul 08, 17:09
Hi Dude,

That's a possible cause for why sentence number 1 is supposed to be wrong. But isn't the past tense of can, could? So in my oppinion it should be gramatically correct to write "we could find the right address".

Unfortunately there is no teacher I could ask, because my teacher is only stupid course book :)
#2Authornerd13 Jul 08, 17:14
Dude is right, you just don't normally use 'could' in a positive sentence for 'konnte'. If I read, 'We could ask him', I ALWAYS assume it's 'Wir könnten ihn fragen'. (It's different with negatives:
'We couldn't find the right address' is fine.)
#3AuthorGibson (418762) 13 Jul 08, 17:20
You're right, of course, in that "could" is the past tense of "can." But it is hardly ever used in that sense precisely because it "could" be misunderstood so easily. English tends to prefer clearer concepts, like "were able to." Simply by reading sentence No. 1, the English thinking mind would understand it as "könnten" first and only through further context would it possibly revert to "konnten." But why go through all that if the statment can be made clear right from the start by using "were able to" or "managed to"?
#4Authordude (253248) 13 Jul 08, 17:23
shoulda f-5ed. :-)
#5Authordude (253248) 13 Jul 08, 17:25
@dude: You are definitely right. When I think about "we could find the right address" I would it translate myself as "Wir könnten die richtige Adresse finden".

Thread closed :)
#6Authornerd13 Jul 08, 17:31
I don't think that there is anything wrong with that sentence. It could be a "German English" thing that makes it wrong though.

It's not uncommon to hear could used in this way.
#7AuthorJJ14 Jul 08, 01:58
I agree that the 2nd sentence is better than the first, however, I disagree as to the reasons. Both sentences are constructed correctly. The first one employs the past auxiliary function of 'can' and this is fine as far as grammar goes. The difference is that the word 'can' is usually used for something that is innate, that was acquired by learning or by circumstances, or for which permission was given. Managing to find an adress is a one-time accomplishment for which one usually does not use the verb 'can' (unless it's in response to a challenge as to one's abilities).

#8Authorfairfax14 Jul 08, 02:36
So suppose I give you a map book and ask you to find a certain address, fairfax, do you think you can find it?
#9Authordude14 Jul 08, 03:25
Or should I have said "can you manage to find it"? :-)
#10Authordude14 Jul 08, 03:29
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