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The modal verb “CAN” has two tense forms:

CAN – Present

COULD – Past

The construction “To Be Able To Do Smth” is an equivalent and it is used to denote some circumstances. For example:

She is not able to sing today. She has a sore throat

He will be able to get tickets if we ask him.

He was not able to come because he had some troubles

The modal verb “CAN” is used in it’s three meanings.

Concrete Imperative Suppositional
  • Physical or mental ability.

She can speak English fluently

  • Permission

You can go now


  • Strong doubt about the present

Can you know it?

Could you know it?

  • To express circumstantial ability/ the ability is presented by some circumstances.

You can get books at any library.

You can buy this dress at any shop

  • Request

Can I go there?

Could I go there?




  • Strong doubt about the past

Could you have done it? I don't believe.




  • Prohibition/forbidden by laws or rules/.

You can't speak with your mouth full.

You can't cross the street here!

  • Doubt about the present and the past

He can't be so silly.

She couldn't have done so.

    If there are two negations in the sentence we should use "FAIL". For example:

   Could he have failed to return?

   She could not have failed to notice it


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