How to Use CAN

Learning how to use can well in English is very important because it is one  of the most common words in the English language. As it is a very common word in English as it has many meanings. 

Take a look at the examples below and see the differences in the meaning of can.

Example Sentence: I can swim
Meaning: I know how to swim (ABILITY).

Example Sentence: Can you tell me the time?
Meaning: Please, tell me the time (REQUEST).

Example Sentence: You can buy a train ticket at the station.
Meaning: It is possible to buy a ticket at the train station (POSSIBILITY).

Functions of Modal Verb Can


When we talk about how to use CAN in terms of ability, possibility, making a request, we are talking about the function of the word. Indeed, although synonyms of can and could are may and might, you cannot always use the may instead of can in a sentence. In the example used before,

  • Example Sentence: I can swim.
  • Meaning 1: I know how to swim (ABILITY).
  • Meaning 2: I may swim (PERMISSION).



How to use Can – Modal Auxiliary Verb (Function & Use)

Can – Modal Auxiliary Verb (Function & Use)

Study the examples provided below:


  • I can swim.
  • Babies can’t talk.


  • Can I go smoke in here?
  • You can drive when you are 18 years old in Malta.


  • Anything can happen.
  • I can’t come tomorrow.


  • Can I speak to Jim, please?
  • Can you show me the way?

Choices and Options

  • You can either smoke in the garden or in the smoking room.
  • When you’re 18, you can choose between studying and working.

Offers of Help

  • Can I help you?
  • Can I take your bags?

Grammar Rules

  • Do not use the 3rd person ‘s’ – She can swim. She cans swim.
  • Question Form: Can you swim? Do you can swim?
  • Use the infinitive of the verb without to after can: I can help you. I can to help you.
  • Use can with some verbs that cannot be used in the progressive form. I can hear you. I am hearing you.

For practice exercises with can click here.


  So And VeryHow To Use Can   


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