‘Can’ and ‘could’ are modal verbs that can be used in a few different ways. Read the post to learn the right way of using modal verb forms “can” and “could”.

Use “can” to talk about:


  • I can swim well.
  • Although they have horses, they can’t ride them.


  • When mum gets back from shopping we can go out.
  • It can be difficult to drive on the left side of the road if you’re not used to it.


  • I am not working today so we can go to the beach.
  • If the bus arrives in five minutes, we can be on time for the meeting.


  • You can park here.
  • You can’t smoke here. It is not allowed.
 Using can and could
Using “can” and “could”

Use “could” to talk about:

Possibility in the past:

  • Last year, we could go on holiday wherever we wanted.
  • I could swim when I was five.

Uncertain possibility in the future:

  • She could fail her exam unless she studies more.
  • They could get a better job if they were more fluent in English.

Use either “can” or “could” to ASK permission. “Could” is more polite and formal:

  • Can I have another cup of coffee?
  • Could I borrow your car?

However, to GIVE permission, use “can” or “cannot”.

  • It stopped raining, you can go out now.
  • You can’t borrow my car, I need it.

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