#EngClass: Modal verb – Can

We’ve talked about “may” and “must” in previous posts. If you happen to miss them, check these out:

“Can” is commonly used to express:

  • Ability
  • Possibility
  • Permission

“Can” is only used in the present tense. In the past tense, we use “could”. We will talk about “could” in another instance.

 

When to use “can”?

We use the modal “can” to make statements about:

slide9

  1. In statements about ability.
    • Example:
      • I can sing.
  2. In statements about possibility.
    • Example:
      • It can get very crowded on holidays.
  3. In statements about offer.
    • Example:
      • Can I help you?
  4. In statements about permission.
    • Example:
      • Can I ask you a question?
  5. In statements about instruction and request.
    • Example:
      • Can you listen to me please?
  6. In statements about prohibition.
    • Example:
      • You can’t smoke in the building.
  7. In statements about impossibility.
    • Example:
      • It can’t be true. I just met her yesterday.

 

How to use “can”?

slide11

Next, we’ll talk about how to use “can” in a sentence.

  • Like every other modal verb, “can” is followed by a bare infinitive verb.
  • To form a negative sentence, “not” is slipped in between “can” and the bare infinitive verb. The negative sentence expresses prohibition and impossibility.

 

  1. “Can” in statements about ability.
    • Example:
      • (+) I can sing.
      • (-) I can’t sing.
      • (?) Can you sing?
  2. “Can” in statements about possibility.
    • Example:
      • (+) It can get very crowded on holidays.
      • (-) It can’t get crowded even on holidays.
      • (?) Can it get crowded on holidays?
  3. “Can” in statements about offer.
    • Example:
      • (+) I can help you.
      • (-) I can’t help you.
      • (?) Can I help you?
  4. “Can” in statements about permission.
    • Example:
      • (+) You can ask me anything.
      • (-) You can’t ask me.
      • (?) Can I ask you a question?
  5. “Can” in statements about instruction and request.
    • Example:
      • (+) Can you stay still!
      • (?) Can you listen to me please?
  6. “Can” in statements about prohibition.
    • Example:
      • (-) You can’t smoke in the building.
      • (-) We can’t park at the entrance.
  7. “Can” in statements about impossibility.
    • Example:
      • (-) It can’t be true. I just met her yesterday.

 

Prohibition

Prohibition is a negative permission. It is stated with a negative statement. To state a prohibition, we use “can’t” or “cannot”.

Subject + can + not + verb

Example:

  • You cannot meet her.
    • Meaning: You are not allowed to meet her.

Stating impossibility

To state the impossible, we use a negative statement.  When stating the impossible, we add “not” after “can”.

Subject + can + not + verb

Example:

  • You can’t be serious. I don’t believe you.
    • Meaning: What you’re saying is impossible.

Compiled and written by @miss_qiak for @EnglishTips4U on Wednesday, February 1, 2017


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^MQ

 

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2 responses to “#EngClass: Modal verb – Can

  1. Pingback: #EngClass: Modal auxiliary | @EnglishTips4U·

  2. Pingback: #EngClass: Would | @EnglishTips4U·

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