Modal verbs can do many things in English, which is why they are so common. This lesson shows you how to use modal verbs of ability, including can and could.
Modal Verbs of Ability
Three modal verbs show ability in English:
- Be Able To
Here are some examples:
- I can play the guitar.
- She can speak German.
- Mike can swim well.
You can see “can” is always followed by a base verb. It does not mater what the subject is. We say “I can”, “she can”, “they can”, etc. The same is true for “could” in the past.
- I could sing very well when I was young.
- She could read when she was 4 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 atthese examples:
- I have been able to visit many countries in my life.
- She used to be able to dance the Tango.
- Mike 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.
You should notice the contractions: can’t, couldn’t, and won’t be able to. They are very common, especially in speaking.
You can form questions 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 question:
- Will he be able to finish on time?
Now you can see how to use modal verbs of ability. Do you think you are ready for the tests? Try these: