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Can and Could

Can is a modal verb.

Can + Infinitive :

     When ‘can’ is used in sentences it expresses possibility and ability. Saying ‘I can do something’ shows I know how to do it (- ability) or that it is possible for me to do it.


Pronoun  Example:
ICanI can see you.
WeCanWe can play in the garden.
YouCanYou can help me cook dinner.
TheyCanThey can come over.
HeCanHe can go to the party.
SheCanShe can watch television.
ItCanThe computer is messed up. It can stop working.



Pronoun  Example:
ICannot / Can’tI am busy. I cannot ring you right now.
WeCannot / Can’tWe cannot eat dinner until we’ve cleaned our room.
YouCannot / Can’tYou can’t go to Emma’s house.
TheyCannot / Can’tThey cannot do the homework.
HeCannot / Can’tHe can’t drive because he hasn’t passed his test.
SheCannot / Can’tShe can’t swim.
ItCannot / Can’tMy phone is broken. It cannot turn on.



When we are talking in the past we use could/couldn’t.




  • When I was younger, I couldn’t ride a bike, but now I can.

  • When I was in high school, I could run really fast.

  • My mum is from Spain. Before she moved to England, she couldn’t speak She could only speak Spanish.

  • My teacher couldn’t read my handwriting yesterday.

  • Yesterday, in school Josh was speaking too fast so I couldn’t understand what he was saying.

  • She was so tired, but she couldn’t sleep.

  • The car was broken, so he couldn’t drive to work.

  • The family went out for dinner last night, but dad couldn’t come because he had an important meeting.

  • They couldn’t come shopping with us because they had a dentist appointment.

  • We couldn’t play outside because it was raining.

  • The door was locked so Emma couldn’t come

  • When my parents were younger they could stay out till late, but we can’t.




When ‘can’ is used in questions it expresses asking for permission.

Example: Can I go to the toilet?

(This means that you are asking permission to leave the room and go the toilet.)


Can I…?Can I go to grandma’s house?
Can we…?Can we play in the garden?
Can you…?Can you clean your room please?
Can they…?Can they come over on the weekend?
Can he…?Can he speak Spanish?
Can she…?Can she ride a bike?
Can it…?Can it glow in the dark?


We use Can you…? and Could you…? when we ask people to do things.




Can you…?Could you…?
Can you open the window, please?Could you open the window, please?
Can you make your bed, please?Could make you bed, please?
Can you wait for me?Could you wait for me?
Can you lend me your lipstick?Could you lend me your lipstick?
Can you pay for me, please?Could you pay for me, please?


We use Can I have…? or Could I have…? to ask for something.




Can I have…?Could I have…?
Can I have £3 to buy some sweets?Could I have £3 to buy some sweets?
Can I have these cupcakes?Could I have these cupcakes?
Can I have this drink?Could I have this drink?


We use Can I…? or Could I…? to ask if it is okay to do something.




Can I…?Could I…?
Can I borrow your top?Could I borrow your top?
Can I speak to mum?Could I speak to mum?
Can I draw a picture in your notebook?Could I draw a picture in your notebook?



Can and Could Exercises..


  1.  Use the infinitive verb given to complete the following sentences.


Infinitive verbSentence:
SpeakI can
DriveYou can
GoHe can
EatShe can
PlayThey can
Have We can



  1. Create your own sentences.

  • I can ________________________________________________________________________

  • You cannot ___________________________________________________________________

  • He cannot ____________________________________________________________________

  • She can _____________________________________________________________________

  • They can ____________________________________________________________________

  • We cannot __________________________________________________________________



  1. Fill in the missing gaps.


can go          could play          couldn’t drive          can sleep          cannot          can swim          could have


  • The car was broken so dad _____________________________ to work.

  • My mum ____________________ so she took my little brother to the swimming baths.

  • I ________________ to Saarah’s party but Louisa ____________________.

  • My parents said that I ______________________ a big party for my birthday, but I don’t want to.

  • They ________________ in the garden, but they didn’t want to go out because it was too cold.

  • Emma ___________________ at my house on Saturday night.



Challenge: create your own sentences using could/couldn’t in the past tense.


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