Meaning of CAN in English


can 1

/kan/ ; unstressed /keuhn/ , auxiliary v. and v., pres. sing. 1st pers. can , 2nd can or ( Archaic ) canst , 3rd can , pres. pl. can; past sing. 1st pers. could , 2nd could or ( Archaic ) couldst , 3rd could , past pl. could . For auxiliary v.: imperative, infinitive, and participles lacking. For v. ( Obs. ): imperative can; infinitive can; past part. could; pres. part. cunning .

auxiliary verb.

1. to be able to; have the ability, power, or skill to: She can solve the problem easily, I'm sure.

2. to know how to: He can play chess, although he's not particularly good at it.

3. to have the power or means to: A dictator can impose his will on the people.

4. to have the right or qualifications to: He can change whatever he wishes in the script.

5. may; have permission to: Can I speak to you for a moment?

6. to have the possibility: A coin can land on either side.

v.t. , v.i.

7. Obs. to know.

[ bef. 900; ME, OE, pres. ind. sing. 1st, 3rd person of cunnan to know, know how; c. G, ON, Goth kann; see KEN, KNOW ]

Usage . CAN 1 and MAY 1 are frequently but not always interchangeable in senses indicating possibility: A power failure can (or may ) occur at any time. Despite the insistence by some, that CAN means only "to be able" and MAY means "to be permitted," both are regularly used in seeking or granting permission: Can (or May ) I borrow your tape recorder? You can (or may ) use it tomorrow.

Sentences using CAN occur chiefly in spoken English. MAY in this sense occurs more frequently in formal contexts: May I address the court, Your Honor? In negative constructions, CAN'T or CANNOT is more common than MAY NOT: You can't have it today. I need it myself. The contraction MAYN'T is rare.

CAN BUT and CANNOT BUT are formal and now somewhat old-fashioned expressions suggesting that there is no possible alternative to doing something. CAN BUT is equivalent to CAN ONLY: We can but do our best. CANNOT BUT is the equivalent of CANNOT HELP BUT: We cannot but protest against these injustices. See also cannot, help .

can 2

/kan/ , n. , v. , canned, canning .


1. a sealed container for food, beverages, etc., as of aluminum, sheet iron coated with tin, or other metal: a can of soup.

2. a receptacle for garbage, ashes, etc.: a trash can.

3. a bucket, pail, or other container for holding or carrying liquids: water can.

4. a drinking cup; tankard.

5. a metal or plastic container for holding film on cores or reels.

6. Slang. ( usually vulgar ). toilet; bathroom.

7. Slang. jail: He's been in the can for a week.

8. Slang. ( sometimes vulgar ). buttocks.

9. Mil. Slang.

a. a depth charge.

b. a destroyer.

10. carry the can , Brit. and Canadian Slang. to take the responsibility.

11. in the can , recorded on film; completed: The movie is in the can and ready for release.


12. to preserve by sealing in a can, jar, etc.

13. Slang. to dismiss; fire.

14. Slang. to throw (something) away.

15. Slang. to put a stop to: Can that noise!

16. to record, as on film or tape.

[ bef. 1000; ME, OE canne, c. G Kanne, ON kanna, all perh. canna small vessel ]

Random House Webster's Unabridged English dictionary.      Полный английский словарь Вебстер - Random House .