Modal verbs can show

The lesson below shows
you how to use these
types of modals.

When you are ready, try
the two exercises.
There are three modal verbs used to show ability:

  • Can
  • Could
  • Be Able To


  • I can play the guitar.
  • She can speak German.

Can is always followed by a base verb.

  • I could sing very well when I was young.
  • She could read when she was 2 years old.

  • I will be able to drive a car in 2 years.
  • He will be able to buy a house next year.

"Able to" is used with many other verb tenses.  Take a look at
these examples:

  • I have been able to visit many countries in my life.
  • I used to be able to dance the Tango.
  • I will have been able to finish by tomorrow.


Negatives are formed by using "not".

  • I can not play piano.
  • She can't play piano.

  • She could not finish her homework last night.
  • They couldn't finish their homework last night.

  • I will not be able to go to the party tonight.
  • Susan won't be able to go to the party tonight.


Questions are formed by changing the order of the words.

  • Can you drive a car?
  • Could he swim?
  • Will Doug be able to bring his boots?

Notice that "will be able to" is separated when used in a

  • Will he be able to finish on time?

Practice modal verbs for ability with this test:

Modal Verbs of Ability Exercise
Modal Verbs of Ability Exercise 2
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Modal Verbs of Ability

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