Grammar is Easy: Modal Verb Can – Learn how to use it

January 8, 2018 - Priscila Pereira


Hey, there!

let’s talk about Modal Verbs!Do you know the modal verb Can? How can you use this modal verb?


What is a modal verb?

A modal verb is a verb that is used to indicate ability, requests, possibility, permission or obligation. You don’t need to conjugate these verbs. You can also make questions by using these verbs (you don’t need auxiliary verbs) and after these verbs (modal verbs), the following verb is both written and spoken in the base form (no to)

The list of modal verbs is short, don’t worry!  In this post, I am going to show you the modal verb “Can”

“Can” is a modal verb you can use to indicate ability, to show you have the power to do something or the means to do something.

So if I say: I can dance – (I am basically saying I have the “ability” to dance)

My sister can speak Spanish (My sister knows how to speak Spanish and speaks Spanish to people)

The negative form of Can is Cannot. (you don’t need auxiliary verbs, only the word “not” next to “can”

I cannot swim (I don’t have this ability, I don’t know how to swim).


The interrogative form of Can is very simple. All you have to do is invert the position between the verb “can” and the subject of the sentence.

Can I speak Spanish?

Can you swim?

Can she dance?


This is the most common use of the verb “can”. However, there are more uses. In this post, I am going to show you different ways to use the modal verb “can”.


What is a request? It is when you ask someone to do something for you.

Can you wait a second?

Can you do me a favor?

Can you open the door?

Offering to do things

You can also offer something. In this case, you “Can I…” and the rest of your sentence

Can I help you? (You are offering your help)

what can I get you?

Asking for things

It is similar to a request, but in this case, you are asking for something.

Can I have the salt please (during a meal)

Can I have/see the menu, please? (at t a restaurant)


Use “can” to ask for permission.

Mr. Murphy, Can I go to the bathroom?

Can I use your phone?

*Please note that “can” is more informal in this situation. To ask for permission, you can also use “may”, however, the modal verb “may” is formal, so it all comes down to the level of formality in your conversation


“Can” is also used to talk about possibilities. There are other modal verbs you can use to describe possibility, but in this post, I will only focus on “can”, ok?

Use “can” in the negative form to say something is  theoretically or actually impossible:

Dad can’t take you to school today. He had an emergency at work.

You can use “can” in the affirmative form to say that something is possible and actually happens. For example

Living in the city can be very expensive. (it can be and it sometimes IS expensive to live in the city)

You will learn more about these different uses, but today I wanted to show some different uses of the modal verb “can”. I will talk more about modal verbs. Which one would you like to see next? Let me know in the comments.

Now, I have an exercise for you.  Look at the picture below. Describe what each person can or cannot do.

I hope you enjoy this post. Don’t forget to share it with your friends!

Teacher Prix

Priscila Pereira

Starbucks and TV Series lover: juggling with teaching, blogging, and a YouTube life! I’m teacher Prix and I want to help you talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime in English! This blog is for English speakers who are looking for an effective blog. Get inspired by hundreds of different posts for all English levels, so that you can finally learn English easily and effectively on the internet.

2 thoughts on “Grammar is Easy: Modal Verb Can – Learn how to use it

  • Hugo Thomaz

    January 11, 2018 at 20:14

    1 – She can dance.
    2 – He can’t of walk bike.
    3 – He can foot the ball.
    4 – She can’t eat.
    5 – He can still with one hand.

    • Priscila Pereira

      January 11, 2018 at 21:48

      Hey, Hugo!
      Excellent work! Here are some corrections
      2. He can’t ride a bike
      3. He can kick the ball (or he can’t kick the ball) He can play soccer or he can’t play soccer
      5. He can do handstands 🙂
      Thank you so much for leaving your comments!! =)


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