The French They Never Taught You 8: "pouvoir" is not the only way to say "may" or "could"

February 11, 2015

One of the first irregular verbs that French students learn is pouvoir, which means "to be able." Thus, je peux means "I can" or "I am able", nous pouvons means "we can" or "we are able," and so on. Nous pourrions means "we could."

 

What they don't learn is that a common way of saying "can" or "may" or "could" is risquer de.

 

Il risque de pleuvoir.

It may rain.

 

La dette française risque d'atteindre un niveau record en 2015.

French debt could reach record levels in 2015.

 

The point here is that although "risquer de" looks like "risks," the better translation is often "may" or "could."

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