Modals Can Could

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  1. Modals Can Could May Might
  2. Modals Can Could May


These five verbs are examples of modal verbs.

  • can
  • could
  • be able to
  • may
  • might
  1. Can and could - modal verbs exercises. Auxiliary verbs exercises elementary, intermediate and adavanced level esl. Index of contents. Can / could - exercises May / might Must / have to Shall / should Will / would Mixed modals - exercises Had better Home. Worksheets - handouts.
  2. 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.
  3. Modals of Probability Must (necessity) Numbers: Cardinal Ought To Participle Adjectives: '-ed' vs '-ing' Partitives Parts of Speech Passive Past Continuous. 'Can' and 'Could' (Ability) Quiz Click on 'Let's Go' after you complete the quiz to find your final grade and feedback.

Modal verbs are helping/auxiliary verbs that express ideas like ability, permission, possibility, and necessity. Many modal verbs have more than one meaning. They are always followed by the simple form of a verb. For example,

Learn The Difference Between CAN and COULD in English with examples.The modals Can and Could are used to do things like talking about ability.

Alan can swim well.

This shows that Alan has the ability to swim.

1. Modals for Ability

Let’s start with expressing ability! We use can, be able to and could to show that someone has (or doesn’t have) an ability to do something.

Look at these examples:

Present/Future AbilityNegativePast AbilityNegative
Alan can swim well.Jackie cannot play piano.Paul could speak Chinese when he was a child.Mary couldn’t finish her homework last night.
I can meet you after school.We can’t visit Vancouver this weekend.Last night, there were no clouds in the sky and they could see all the stars.You couldn’t find the website this morning, could you?
I am able to speak two languages.I am not able to speak Arabic.When I was a young child, I wasn’t able to tie my shoes.I wasn’t able to finish my test yesterday.
Brenda is able to run quickly.Stacey isn’t able to finish a marathon.Shaun was able to complete the assignment.Paula wasn’t able to pass the class.
You are able to program a computer.We aren’t able to make a reservation tonight.They were able to catch six fish on their trip.You weren’t able to understand the answer, were you?

Did you notice that the verbs after “can/could/be able to” are always in the simple form? For example:

Alan can swim well. (subject + auxiliary verb + simple verb + ..)

Do NOT change the modal auxiliary OR the main verb for he/she/it subjects. In addition, do not add “ing” or “ed”.

Iso paper pdf. Alan can swims well. Wrong!

Alan can to swim well. Wrong!

Alan can swimming well. Wrong!

Alan could swam well. Wrong!

How can we make questions about ability? It’s easy!

Modals Can Could May Might

Modal auxiliary + subject + main verb + .. ?

Can she play guitar?
Could you speak English when you were a child?

BE + subject + able to + main verb + .. ?

Are you able to understand the homework?
Were you able to finish the test?
Was he able to pass the exam?

Notice that we do not need the verbs “do/does/did” when we make questions!
The modal verb “be able to” includes the word “to”; the “to” is not an infinitive.

2. Modals for Possibility


Let’s learn about expressing possibility now.

The verbs may,might and could show possibility now and in the future. In this case, they have the same meaning.

Look at this conversation:

A: My mother said that it may snow tomorrow.

B: Really? It might snow?! That’s great! I could make a snowman or go for a “snow” walk.

A: Don’t get too excited. If the temperature is high, it may not snow. It may rain.

B: Well, I guess I could still go for a walk in the rain.

Learning competencies in english. Be careful with may + “be” and “maybe”. Compare these sentences. Both are correct.

Ann is not here today. She may be sick. “may be” is a modal.
Ann is not here today. Maybe she is sick. “Maybe” is an adverb.

3. Modals for Permission

Finally, let’s look at ways to ask for and give permission. We use may, could and can to do this.

most formal/politeMay I go to the washroom?
*only used with “I” and “we”
medium formalCould I borrow your dictionary?
Could he pay you tomorrow?
casualCan I call you back later?
Can she have a cookie?

Modals Can Could May

Now, look at the (main) verbs that come after the subject. They are always in the simple form, just as with other modal verbs.

Modals Can Could

Again, the most polite/formal way to answer these questions is with “may.”


May I go to the washroom?Yes, you may (go to the washroom).
Yes, you can.
No, you may not.
No, you cannot.
Can she have a cookie?Yes, she can.No, she can’t.

Notice that we do not “contract” may + not = mayn’t. Wrong!
Can’t and couldn’t are common contractions, however.

When you are sure that you understand the lesson, you can continue with the exercises.