Modal Verbs – “CAN”


CAN” is one of the most used modal verbs in English. “Can” is an auxiliary verb ( modal auxiliary verb ). 

It can be used to express;

  • Ability
  • Possibility
  • Permission
  • Request
  • Offer 

General Structure of  “CAN” in a Sentence

POSITIVE FORM (+) :  Subject + CAN + Verb (  first form of the verb )

NEGATIVE FORM (-) : Subject + CAN + NOT ( CAN’T ) + Verb (  first form of the verb )

QUESTION FORM (?) : CAN+ Subject + Verb (  first form of the verb )


  • I can play basketball. ( positive form )
  • I can not ( can’t ) play basketball. ( negative form )
  • Can I play basketball? ( question form )

Contraction for ” CAN NOT “;

can not –> can’t   Ex: I can’t swim.

Using ” CAN

1. It is used to express that someone is able to do something. ( Present Ability )


  • I can speak four languages.
  • She can drive a car.
  • He can speak English fast.
  • Fishes can swim.

2. It is used to express that something is possible.  ( General Possibility )


  • Alcohol can cause canser.
  • They can stay with us when they come.
  • You can buy tickets from the dealers.

3. It is used in a question, which is not a real question, to ask somebody to do something. We want somebody to do our request ( in an informal way, especially between friends or family ). ( Informal Request )


  • Can you make me coffee?
  • Can you hand me the pen?
  • Can I have some tea, please?

4. It is also used to ask or give permission for something. ( Informal Permission )


  • Can I use your book, please? ( ask for permission )
  • If you want, you can go to the park. ( give permission )
  • Can I ask you some questions? ( ask for permission )
  • You can drive my bike. ( give permission )

5. It is used in offers to help someone or to do something for someone. ( Informal Offer )


  • Can I help you?
  • If they like, I can carry some bags for you.
  • There is nothing left in the fridge. Can I do some shopping for you?


For ” CAN NOT”;

1. It is used in negative saying ( when we are sure that something is not true or something is surprising )


  • That can’t be John. He is in America.
  • It can’t be raining. The sun is shining and there are no rain clouds.
  • You can’t be 50! You look young.

2. It is also used in negative saying ( when something is forbidden or not allowed )


  • You can’t park the car there.
  • They can’t wear jeans at work.
  • You can’t go on without us.

3 thoughts on “Modal Verbs – “CAN”

  • July 9, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Really it’s very useful for the beginners
    Thanks a lot
    Keep forwarding like this …


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