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Using Can and Could

Published by My Lingua Academy on

‘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:


Ability:

I can swim well.

Although they have horses, they can’t ride them.


Possibility:

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 nor used to it.


Opportunity:

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.


Permission:

You can park here.

You can’t smoke here. It is not allowed.

rear view of man on mountain road against sky
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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My Lingua Academy is an online school of English language. We give one-on-one lessons to students of English of all ages and all levels of knowledge all around the world. With us you can prepare for written assignments and exams, attend a general or business English course, or have conversation classes with qualified English teachers who have years of experience.

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