25 Modals of Ability – Can

Verbs

The verb Can is a Modal Verb used to express the idea of ability or opportunity, to talk about the possibility or impossibility of an event or action to happen and to ask or give permission.

The modal verb Can is used as an auxiliary verb and these are its three forms:

Affirmative

The Affirmative form of the verb can has this structure:
Subject + verb “can”
(the form is always the same, even for the third person).

SUBJECT VERB
I can
You can
He can
She can
It can
We can
You can
They can

Negative

The Negative form of the verb can has this structure:
Subject + verb “can” + not (the form is always the same, even for the third person).*

SUBJECT VERB [CAN + NOT] SHORT FORM
I cannot can’t
You cannot can’t
He cannot can’t
She cannot can’t
It cannot can’t
We cannot can’t
You cannot can’t
They cannot can’t

*the verb can is an exception in forming the negative and it is written together with “not”: cannot (can not is incorrect)

Interrogative

The Interrogative form of the verb can has this structure:
Verb can + subject + base form of the verb + question mark (?).

VERB SUBJECT QM
Can I …?
Can you …?
Can he …?
Can she …?
Can it …?
Can we …?
Can you …?
Can they …?
  1. Ability
    • She can play the piano.
    • She cannot play the piano.
    • Can she play the piano?
  2. Possibility
    • Anybody can learn how to drive a car.
    • Not everybody can learn how to drive a car.
    • Can anybody learn how to drive a car?
  3. Request
    • Can you open the window, please?
  4. Permission
    • My children can stay at the party.
    • My children cannot stay at the party.
  5. Opportunity
    • We can stay at his place for a week!
    • We cannot stay at his place for a week!
    • Can we stay at his place for a week?

We use Can when we talk about:

  1. Abilities;
  2. Possibilities;
  3. Requests;
  4. Permission;
  5. Opportunity.

We use the Modal Verb Can to express the idea of ability or permission. We can use Can in all three forms (Affirmative, Negative, Interrogative).

  • AffirmativeSubject + verb “can” (the form is always the same, even for the third person);
  • NegativeSubject + verb “can” + not;
  • Interrogative: Verb can + subject + base form of the verb + question mark (?).

For example:
Affirmative: She can play the piano.” = This is the Affirmative form and it’s used to confirm that the subject, in this case, is able to do something.
Negative: “She can’t play the piano.” = This is the Negative form and it’s used to deny that the subject, in this case, is able to do something.
Interrogative: “Can she play the piano?” = This is the Interrogative form and is used to ask question if the subject, in this case, is able to do something.

Let’s revise this content within the [Form] section. Take a look at the [Example] section that shows its use within a context.