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Modal Verbs Can Could

What is the difference between can and could?
How to use can and could?
What is a modal verb in English grammar?

Modal verbs – can/could


1) We use modal verbs to show if we believe something is certain, probable or possible (or not). We also use modals to ask permission, make requests and offers etc.

Modal verbs fall into the category of auxiliary verbs (also known as helping verbs). It means that they are used together with a main verb to give grammatical information and additional meaning to a sentence.
2) The modal verb can has only two forms: can (present) and could (past). We use the modal verb can and the base form of the verb to form sentences. Questions are formed by inverting the subject and can. Negatives are formed with not. Contracted forms are used (can’t/couldn’t).

We can use the modal:

a) to talk about general abilities or skills in the present.

I can cook and bake.
a) to talk about general abilities or skills in the past.

I could paint beautifully as a kid.
b) to make general statements about what is possible/impossible (not allowed).

It can be very hot in summer. (=Sometimes it is very hot in summer.)
You can’t smoke here.
b) to make general statements about what was possible/impossible (not allowed).

It could be very hot in summer. (=Sometimes it was very hot in summer.)
He couldn’t do it! He is such a sweet guy.
c) to ask for permission (informal).

Can I borrow your pencil, please?
c) to ask for permission (formal)

Could I use your phone, please?
d) to request something (informal)

Can you help me, please?
d) to request something (formal)

Could you show me the way, please?
e) to make offers.

Can I carry these bags for you?
e) to make suggestions.

We could go to the bar if you want.

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