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Теорія на тему Modal verbs. Can and could

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Study the information about modal verbs ‘can’ and ‘could’.

Modal verb ‘can’:

1. Possibility


We use the modal can to make general statements about what is possible:


It can be very cold in winter. (= It is sometimes very cold in winter)

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2. We use could as the past tense of can:

It could be very cold in winter. (=Sometimes it was very cold in winter.)

3. We use could to show that something is possible in the future, but not certain:

If we don’t hurry we could be late.

4. We use could have to show that something is/was possible now or at some time in the past:

It’s ten o’clock. They could have arrived now.

5. Impossibility:


We use the negative can’t or cannot to show that something is impossible:

That can’t be true.
Mark cannot be serious.

6. We use couldn’t/could not to talk about the past:

They knew it could not be true.

7. Ability:


We use can to talk about someone’s skill or general abilities:

She can swim like a fish.


They can’t dance very well.

We use can to talk about the ability to do something at a given time in the present or future:

You can make a lot of money if you are lucky.


We use could to talk about past time:

She could play volleyball.

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8. Permission:


We use can to ask for permission to do something:

Can I ask a question, please?

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Could is more formal and polite than can:

Could I ask a question please?

We use can to give permission:

You can go home now if you like.

We use can to say that someone has permission to do something:

Students can travel free.

9. Instructions and requests:


We use could you as a polite way of telling or asking someone to do something:

Could you take a message please?

Can is less polite:

Can you take a message please?

10. Offers and invitations:


We use can I … to make offers:

Can I help you?