Learn the correct use of Can and Could.

Use of CAN.

Can means
  • to be able to
  • know how to.
Can is used to express strength which may be
  • physical,
  • mental
  • official authority
  • wealth etc.
In day to day conversations, ‘can’ is used to express:

a) Ability

1. I can speak French fluently.
2. I can paint this wall easily.
3. The accountant can remit the payment.

b) Possibility

1. The university can debar him.
2. Anyone can open this parcel.

c) Permission

1. You can swim today.
2. You can go to play after finishing your homework.
3. You cannot talk to the customers without my permission.

d) A form of Phrase

1. I can't help getting excited.
2. The mother can’t help worrying for the children.

e) Disposition

1. She can get into an argument at any time.
2. We can't trust them as they can leave us any moment.

Note: Cannot or Can is one word and is used in the sense of a Prohibition.

Example: You can't enter the Moghul Gardens.

1. With the help of GPS you may trace a new route easily. ------ Don't Say
2. With the help of a dictionary, you can trace a new route easily. ----- Say

Use of COULD

Could – Past tense of “can”

Could is used to express:

a) Past Tense of Power

1. I asked him if the Branch Manager could give me special permission for this.
2. He asked me if my father could get him the letter.
3. I asked him if he could sing a song.

b) Past Tense of Ability

1. I could dress up for the show on my own.
2. He could not swim across the river.
3. He could read and write English fluently.
4. The child tried to stand up, but he could not.

c) Past Tense of Polite Request

1. Could you get me a glass of wine please?
2. Could you lend me your blazer tonight ?
3. Could you please erase the board for me?

d) Past Tense of Possibility

1. You could have caught the thief if you had gone on a bike.
2. If he had got the tests done on time, he could have been treated earlier.
3. If I had more time, I could go to meet his family.

e) Feeling of Impatience

1. What could I do to solve this?
2. How could it not work ?

f) Past Tense Phrase

1. The child couldn't help laughing.
2. The Branch Manager couldn't help notifying him.