Learn to Speak English Easily: Use of ‘can’ and ‘could’

Learn to speak English easily through the TLP Spoken English Course. The course is designed specially to facilitate self-learning. It is organised into units to help you learn step by step in a simple, systematic and in an easy way. To be able to speak fluently you should go through all the units and do the exercises. To know more you can read: How to Use the Course Content?


In the previous unit ‘How to make Questions with ‘Did’ is discussed. In this unit the “Use of ‘can‘ and ‘could‘” is elaborated. We use ‘I can’, ‘You can’, ‘We can’, ‘They can’ and so on in conversation to express ability to do something.

Use of ‘Can’

We use ‘can‘–

  • To express ability.

I can speak in English.
You can learn to swim.
They can win the match.
Ramesh can play the sitar.

  •  To express permission, to ask for permission and to give permission.

You can go, if you like.
Can I come tomorrow?
You can submit your assignment tomorrow.

  • To express something that is possible.

Ram can come to the function.
India can win the match.
They can help you.

  • To make a request.

Can you help me?
Can you please move a little?
Can you speak a little louder?


Write more sentences/questions using the examples which you can use in your day to day conversation on your own and practice orally.

Use of ‘Could’

Could’ is the past tense of ‘can’. It is used —

  • To talk about what one was able to do in the past.

I could run ten miles, when I was young.
My grandfather could eat ten idlis for breakfast.
She could study continuously for five hours.

  • To express possibility.

Dhoni could continue as the captain of the Indian team.
It could stop raining.
India could win against Australia.

  • To make a request in the present.

Could I speak to the manager?
Could I borrow your book for a day?
Could you please grant me leave for a week?

  • To ask and give permission in the present.

You could leave office an hour early.
They could use this premises.
Could I leave a little early today?

  • To refer to something that was possible in the past but did not take place, we use ‘could’ with ‘have’.

I could have finished the work in time.
They could have easily won the match.
My parents could have sent me abroad.

Positive Form Negative Form Negative Contracted Form.
can can not can’t
could could not couldn’t

I can’t stay longer today.
She can’t see the board.
We can’t join the rally.
I couldn’t attend the class.
It couldn’t run because of the injury.
They couldn’t pay the amount.


Write more sentences using the examples which you can use in your day to day conversation on your own and practice orally.

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Next: Questions with ‘Can’ and ‘Could’