How to distinguish CAN and CAN't when you hear the sounds from an American?

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I think it may be hard to hear when the word "can" or "can't"

    is followed by a word that starts with D or T.

    These may sound the same:

    "You CAN'T do that"

    "You CAN do that"

    "You CAN'T talk"

    "You CAN talk"

    The main difference is the "inflection" or tone of the meaning.

    The first sentence "can't" would sound negative or scolding.

    The second sentence "can" would sound positive or encouraging.

    Also, when people talk fast, "can" often sounds like "c'n" as if the word is swallowed up between the others. For example,

    "You can go" comes out "YOU c'n GO."

    But "can't" is usually stressed for emphasis.

    "You CAN'T go with me"

    So, if people say it this way:

    "You CAN'T do that"

    "YOU c'n DO that"

    "You CAN'T talk"

    "YOU c'n TALK"

    You can hear the difference more clearly.

    Otherwise, listen for the inflection.

  • 1 decade ago

    Ask the person to clarify, explaining that you're not used to American English. You'll start to distinguish after awhile.


  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Good one. I have to test it out myself.

    When we say "can", we let the "n" trail for a sec. You can actually hear the "n".

    When we say "can't" it is clipped, or spoken short and fast.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    People kept saying to GW " You can't invade Iraq", but he thought they meant.....

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  • 1 decade ago

    listen for the "t" sound...duh

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