FREE English Newsletter

Do you believe VS Can you believe - Student question (With video!)

Do you believe  ⧬  Can you believe

In today’s post I’ll answer a real question that one of my private students here in Japan asked me. It’s a good one and I thought other people studying English might have the same question. 

My student asked me "What's the difference between the phrases Do you believe and Can you believe? She heard one of these phrases in an English movie, and that made her think of this question.

The only difference is the first word of each sentence so I see how these are easy to confuse.

Do you believe / Can you believe

Let me explain the meaning of each:

Do you believe…?  Is asking... "Do you think something is true?" OR “...can be true?

Can you believe… is often used when we hear shocking or unexpected news. This is usually a rhetorical question, a rhetorical question is a question that we don’t need or want an answer to. *I'll explain that in more detail below...


Here are some natural examples using 
Do you believe…?”

①"Jim said he shot 2 holes in one playing golf last weekend! Do you believe him?"
(This is hard to believe. I’m suspicious of his story. Do you think it’s true?)

hole in one, suspicious, do you believe?

②"Do you believe in ghosts?"
(Do you think ghosts are real?)

Do you think believe in ghossts?

③"The president says he is going to stop corruption in the government. Do you believe him? Politicians have a history of lying."
(Do you think what he said is true? Is he being honest?)

Do you believe him?


Here are some natural examples using 
Can you believe…?”

①"Can you believe the boss said we can all leave early today! This is great!"

~ This is unexpected, but of course we are happy. Remember I said  at the beginning of this video that can you believe is usually a rhetorical question. Meaning we don’t need or want an answer.

I asked can you believe but I don't expect an answer. it's good news, it's unexpected, but it's a fact. It's a surprising fact so it's natural to say can you believe it, but I don't expect an answer. I'm just excited because we can go home early! 

Can you believe the boss said we can all leave early today!

②"George and Christina are getting a divorce. Can you believe it? They always seemed so happy!"

~ The fact that George and Christina are getting a divorce is a surprise to me. I thought they were happy so this news is a shock.

Let’s turn this example into a short conversation and you can see how we naturally respond to rhetorical questions in conversation. 

Andy: George and Christina are getting a divorce. Can you believe it? They always seemed so happy!
Bruce: Wow! I just saw them last week at the coffee shop and they looked fine.
Andy: I know right! Everyone I have talked to is shocked to hear this.

~ In this conversation Bruce responds by saying "Wow!" then he mentions that he saw the couple last week. He never answers the question “can you believe it,” he never say yes or no. An answer is not expected. Andy is using “can you believe it” to show his shock and surprise at the fact that George and Christina are getting a divorce. 

They are getting a divorce. Can you believe it?

③"Mike won the lottery! $700,000! Can you believe it? Lucky guy!"

Mike won the lottery! Can you believe it?

 Join my weekly English newsletter and get a copy of my e-book “5 Simple English Communication Tips”
Copy of newsletter blog.png

We respect your email privacy
Was this post helpful for you?
Please share it with your friends!

Check out these other great posts too!

Easily confused English - notify VS notice πŸ‘€
~ Recently one of my private students confused the verbs notify and notice. Read my blog post and use these verbs correctly! πŸ‘

How to use Neither and Either!
• Learn to use this grammar naturally πŸ‘
• Link to my full page infographic πŸ–Ί
• Do an interactive quiz ❓

Good-natured - English expression

~English expression~

 good-natured - adjective - kind, friendly and patient when dealing with people

"Anthony is so good-natured—he finds it difficult to hate anyone."

"The discussion was good-natured and positive."

Good-natured Click for pronunciation! 

A good-natured joke = not trying to be mean or negative

*Usually we use the expression good-natured to describe a joke that is misunderstood
"Good-natured jokes are always better than mean tricks on April Fool's Day."

Trespass/trespassing - English Vocabulary

Definition from

trespass - verb - trespass (on something) to enter land or a building that you do not have permission or the right to enter
trespass   Click for pronunciation

We use the gerund form (verb +ing) as a noun for warning signs or posters. ↓ *Just like "No Smoking" signs!

"The sign on the fence said No trespassing."

"Pokemon Go has caused some trouble when people trespass on private property trying to catch a Pokemon."

Thanks always to the Oxford Learner's Dictionary for the simple definitions!

Colorful - English vocabulary

colorful - adjective - full of bright colors or having a lot of different colors

colorful ← Click for pronunciation! 

"The male birds are more colorful than the females."

The leaves in my hometown are very colorful in autumn.

Turn part 2

Turn part 2
From the last blog ~

“My red sock got washed with my white shirts by accident! My shirts have all turned pink!!!” “Brian will turn 35 next month.”

Colors and someone's age are adjectives.
  • turned pink
  • will turn 35

If one thing turns into a different thing (one noun becomes another noun~water to ice eg.) we use the preposition to or into with the verb turn.

“If you put water into the freezer it turns to ice.”

“Brian turned into a real jerk after he became a manager.”

Make a sentence using turn with your open example!

Autumn leaves changing color (Turn yellow, orange and red)

It's Fall! In this season leaves will become yellow, orange and red! The leaves change color. They will turn yellow, orange and red.

In English conversation, we use the word turn instead of become.

“Brian will turn 35 next month.” (become 35 years old)

“My red sock got washed with my white shirts by accident! My shirts have all turned pink!!!”

~ish at the end of word to mean = it’s like

We put the letters ~ish at the end of word to mean = it’s like, or has the quality
“My new suit is bluish grey.”  = It’s like blue and grey mixed together
Words that end with ~ish are almost always adjectives.
foolish – like a fool
childish – like a child
stylish – has style
we can also use it to describe something from an area or country~
Someone from Scotland is Scottish

Something smells...

*That smells. When we say something smells without adding a positive adjective (you smell nice; dinner smells good etc.) it has a bad meaning.

"This bathroom smells!" = the smell is not good

"You smell, didn't you have a shower today!"

If something smells good please add a positive adjective to your sentence...

"There's a nice smell coming from the kitchen, Mom is baking cookies!!!"

"You smell great tonight, I love your perfume."

Learn 50 common English phrasal verbs! + Lots of real examples!

πŸ“š Learn  50 common English phrasal verbs  What is a phrasal verb? ~ In English, a phrasal verb is a combination (mixture) of ...

Most Popular posts from the last 30 days!