Understanding Modals are important toward an advanced English. The Modal verbs are: Can / Could / May / Might / Will / Would / Must / Shall / Should / Ought to / . They have various uses such as ability, possiblity or necessity and so on. In this lesson we are going to explain the modals which express, ability, permission, requests and advice .
We use can to talk about someone’s skill or general abilities:
She can speak several languages.
He can swim like a fish.
They can’t dance very well.
We use can to talk about the ability to do something at a given time in the present or future:
You can make a lot of money if you are lucky.
Help. I can’t breathe.
They can run but they can’t hide.
We use could to talk about past time:
She could speak several languages.
They couldn’t dance very well.
We use could have to say that someone had the ability/opportunity to do something, but did not do it:
She could have learned Swahili, but she didn’t have time.
I could have danced all night [but didn’t].
We use can to ask for permission to do something:
Can I ask a question, please? Can we go home now.
could is more formal and polite than can:
Could I ask a question please? Could we go home now?
may is another more formal and polite way of asking for permission:
May I ask a question please? May we go home now?
We use can to give permission:
You can go home now if you like. You can borrow my pen if you like.
may is a more formal and polite way of giving permission:
You may go home now, if you like.
We use can to say that someone has permission to do something:
We can go out whenever we want.
Students can travel free.
may is a more formal and polite way of saying that someone has permission:
Students may travel free.
Instructions and requests:
We use could you and would you as polite ways of telling or asking someone to do something:
Could you take a message please? Would you carry this for me please? Could I have my bill please?
can and will are less polite:
Can you take a message please? Will you carry this for me please?
Suggestions and advice:
We use should to make suggestions and give advice:
You should send an email.
We should go by train.
We use could to make suggestions:
We could meet at the weekend.
You could eat out tonight.
MoroccoEnglish.com’s webmaster, High School teacher of English, from Nador and currently working in Bouarfa city. A BA degree holder, from Mohamed first university in Oujda .
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