The front pages thunder:
This [insert rant-worthy issue of choice] is an utter disgrace. It cannot continue.
How many times have you read an opinion like that, whether on front pages or editorial columns?
And what is wrong with it?
Well, the obvious answer to the second sentence—It cannot continue—is a pantomime-style one.
Oh yes it can!
What’s more, it usually does. Even in the worst cases, like war crimes and invasions.
The meaning of “can”
The most common meaning of the modal verb “can” is “to be able to”. Hence it is obvious that “cannot” means “be unable to”.
And saying a disgrace “cannot continue” implies that it is impossible for it to continue, that it will be somehow stopped.
(Possibly by magic?) Continue reading