Use of Can And Could

Use of Can And Could

These words are termed models. Models are of special verbs. They are also known as helping verbs. Every modal has its own usage. With a single modal, the first form of the verb is used. In this article, you will also learn about the active-passive use of these(can and could ) models. Let’s dive deep into the detailed discussion of these models.


Can is used in sentences when we have to say we are able or unable to do a particular thing. Mostly can is used in those sentences which are framed to elaborate on the possibility and ability to do the things. Have a look on the below sentences framed with ‘can’.

  • Yes, I can also sing.
  • No, I cannot bind them just now.
  • Yes, I can read it.

Sentences of Can in  Case of Possibility

  • I can take a break.
  • I can sleep throughout the day because tomorrow is a holiday.

Sentences of Can in the Case of Ability

  • I can swim.
  • She can knit a sweater.
  • He can speak English.
  • He can make us laugh.
  • I can wait for some more time.
  • I can meet you tomorrow.
  • I can finish my work later
  • I can have fun.

Negative Sentences Can

  • I cannot play the guitar.
  • I can’t sing.
  • The baby can’t speak clearly yet.
  • I have a lot of work so I can’t take a break.
  • I have to go so I can’t wait for you.

Use of Can in Permission Sentences

  • You can take a break.
  • You can use a calculator in the exam.
  • You can ask me anything.

Use of Can’t  in Non-Permission Sentences

  • You can’t sit her.
  • You can’t watch TV.

Use of Can in Interrogative Sentences

  • Can you dance?
  • Can you bind my books?
  • Can you read the newspaper?

Mostly may is used in order to take permissions, But can is also used in these where we want to show the same level of two individuals and one is asking for permission from the other.

  • Can I take breaks?
  • Can I say something?
  • Can I talk to you for a minute?
  • Can I call you after some time?


Could is used in those sentences in which you have to say the possibility and ability of situations. It is also used in sentences where you want to take permission from someone in a polite manner and you want to show him superior to you. Let’s discuss the entire cases of ‘could’ one by one:

Use of Could in Permission Sentences

  • Could I have your pen?
  • Could I use your scooter for quite some time?

Use of Could in Suggestion Sentences

  • We could study together.
  • You could buy this bag.
  • We could watch a movie tomorrow.
  • He could consult the doctor.

Use of Could in Imaginary Situations

  • I wish I could fly.
  • I wish you could understand me.
  • I wish I could marry Deepika.
  • I wish you could see the reality.

Not fully Possible

  • Don’t make a noise the baby could wake up.
  • You could hurt yourself with this knife.
  • Drive carefully, the breaks could fail.

Conditional Sentences

  • If you buy a lottery ticket, you could be lucky.
  • If you work hard you could get a promotion.
  • If you arrange the medicines we could save the patient.

Passive Voice Use of  Can be and Could be

Rule: can be/could be +3rd form of a verb.

1)Active voice: You can download this video from my website.

Passive voice: This video can be downloaded from my website.

2) Active voice: You can make the payment by credit card.

Passive voice: The payment can be made by credit card.

3) Active voice: The Income Tax department could fine us.

Passive voice: We could be fined.

Have a look at some more examples of passive voice:

  • I can be serious.
  • Can you be serious?
  • I can’t be artificial with you.
  • You could be in trouble.
  • I could be wrong.

Look at the below table where the use of can and could in present past and future tenses explain in detail:

Tense Ability Possibility
Present Tense I can speak English.

I can’t speak English.

Can you speak English?

Can’t you speak English?

Why can’t you speak English?

How can I learn English?

Where can I learn English?

My parents are away, so I can watch TV.

My parents are at home, so I can’t watch TV.

Can you watch TV when your parents are at home?

Can’t you watch TV when your parents are at home?

Past Tense

When I was young.

I could play the guitar.

When I was young.

I couldn’t play the guitar.

When you were young. could you play the guitar?

When you were young. couldn’t you play the guitar?

It did not rain yesterday, so we were able to play.

I could see the smoke coming out of the building.

I couldn’t watch TV because my parents were at home yesterday.

Were you able to watch TV when your parents were at home yesterday?

Couldn’t you watch TV when your parents were at home yesterday?

FutureTense I am learning English, so I will be able to speak English soon.

I am not practising, so I won’t be able to speak English soon.

Will you be able to speak English after a few days?

Won’t you be able to speak English after a few days?

I can come for an interview on Monday.

I can’t come for an interview on Monday.

I will be able to answer your question after talking to my boss.

I won’t be able to answer your question before talking to my boss.

Can you come for an interview on Monday?

Can’t you come for an interview on Monday?


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