I've seen threads for 可以 as opposed to 会 and 能, but what about 可以 with its component, 可?

Wiktionary seems to use them interchangeably: 白银可以指:银,贵金属,用做货币时称为白银

Is there a difference in nuance, or flow of the sentence?

  • see dictionaries and Chinese grammars, e.g. iciba for 可(可以 is discussed in Chinese grammars in the section on 能愿动词)in addition to answer below note, 可 used to form adjectives: 可爱、可悲、可靠 lovable, lamentable, reliable, 连 (表示转折) but; yet (可是);副 about 年可80,重可百斤
    – user6065
    Mar 30, 2016 at 18:36
  • 可 is the original verb. 以 is a void suffix that has been added for clarity.
    – user4452
    Mar 30, 2016 at 20:18

2 Answers 2


"可" is a morpheme, while "可以" is a word.

With the meaning of "be able to", "可" and "可以" are interchangeable in most cases.

When we answer a question, we should say "可以", which means "fine", or "OK". When coming to popular culture, some of us would just answer "可", which is not literally supposed to. Say, if you answer like this, we could still understand.

Here are the situations I could come up with, only "可" is used as emphatic adverb (just like "very"), sometimes used to throw a question. See definition #2 here

  • For example, "这本书可贵了", which means "this book is very expensive". This is the morpheme "可" used for emphasis.
  • Another example, "近来可好?", which means "How have you been recently?". This is the morpheme "可" used to throw a question.
  • Hi S1ngS1ng, thank you for your contribution! It would be better if you add some reference :D
    – George
    Mar 30, 2016 at 19:29
  • @congliu Hi. Sure I will. Though I only found one ref. Others are based on personal experience.
    – S1ngS1ng
    Mar 30, 2016 at 20:52
  • 多谢!您的回复可详了! (Did I use it right?)
    – JAF
    Mar 31, 2016 at 12:10
  • @JAF Ha! I understand what you wanna say. But please keep that in mind, "详" is a morpheme, which means you could have multiple words with it. Such as “详细”,“详实”, “安祥”, “慈祥”. In your case, you might mean "详细". It should be better to say "您的回复可详细了", or "您的回复很详细". Personally, I would say "您的回复很有帮助", which means "your reply is very helpful". That is probably a better way to express your feeling. What do you think? :)
    – S1ngS1ng
    Mar 31, 2016 at 15:09

"可以" simply means can, be able to. "可" means a lot than that, but is rarely used alone. It's wired that you say 可 to some questions. But it's ok to use like that, and when it happens, it has the same meaning as 可以, but it feels like u are a king.... Anyway it is really wired. when 可 is used with other character, it usually emphasis that char.

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