My latest pet peeve arises from the misuse of the word “can.” This week in particular my landlord told me she cannot extend my lease until May 31 – it ends May 9. My response to her: “No, you could extend my lease. You choose not to.” See the difference?
This misuse of this simple verb is a scathing indictment of the American education system. Since my apartment manager apparently was a child left behind, a grammar lesson is in order for all of us! YAY! (because in school, if one student does something wrong, we punish everyone instead of correcting that one person – dontcha just love public education?*)
The word “can” means:
- to be able to; have the ability, power, or skill to: Superman can fly and leap tall buildings.
- to know how to: I can play the piano, but not the cello.
- to have the power or means to: My manager can give me a raise.
- to have the right or qualifications to: The U.S. Supreme Court can hear cases involving issues of federal law.
In the case of my lease, my apartment manager has the power/means to or is able to extend my lease. She just choses not to (despite the fact there are at least a half-dozen empty apartments in just my corner of the complex.) So, what she should have said is “I will not extend your lease for the additional 22 days” (i.e., suck it).
As a result, I will be moving out on or before May 9.
*For those without a sarcasm sensor, a la Dr. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory, this is sarcasm.