Can and Could for beginners

Talent shows are a big thing now in our pop culture. If you want to participate in them, you should know how to talk about your abilities. Learn about it here!

"Can and Could" in English Grammar

The Modal Verb Can

'Can' is a modal verb used to talk about 'abilities' in the present.

After 'can' the base form of the verb is used. For example:

I can swim.

You can sing.

She can drive a car.

'Can' has the same form for all persons.

I can swim.
He/She/It can swim.
We/You/They can swim.


The negative form of can is 'can not' and the contracted form is 'can't'. Take a look at the examples:

I can't swim.

He can not sing.

You can also use 'cannot'. But it's rather formal.


To form questions, you need to simply place 'can' before the subject. For example:

- Can you sing?

We use 'can' and 'can't' in tag questions as well:

You can dance, can't you?

They can't stay calm, can they?


Do not use do/does/did in questions or negative sentences with 'can'.


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Shall and Should

'Shall' and 'Should' are like relatives, because 'Should' is the past tense of 'Shall', but they have different functions despite their similarities.

Must and Have to

'Have to' and 'must' have the same meaning and are used to express obligations. However, they are used in different situations and are not interchangeable.


Semi-modals are the subcategory of modal verbs. So it is good to learn the difference between modal verbs and semi-modal verbs to use them properly.
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