ENGLISH GRAMMAR: ‘Can’ and ‘Could’ usage simplified

How to use “Can” and “Could” effectively

To speak English effectively, the simple understanding of modal verbs like can and could is essential. But memorizing bunch of grammar rules won’t make you fluent speaker, leaner needs to understand the context and phrases that go it the context. In this blog, we are going to simplify usage of can and could and explore other grammatical issues.


Can is used describe current abilities or skills. Can is often used with the action verbs such as do, see, swim speak, dance, write etc.

After joining classes at PEP TALK INDIA, he can speak English really well.

She can do it easily.

He can run like a cheetah.

I can write essays with logical arguments.

She can dance with versatility.

Can you drive perfectly? (Question form)

He can’t cook pasta. (Describing inability)

He can’t walk by himself. He can sit on chair though.


Could is used to describe past abilities. Could is usually used with verbs like feel, see, hear, smell, taste, understand etc.

Back then I couldn’t speak English but now I can speak three languages.

He could play chess really well in my college days.

He couldn’t sing English songs.

We could see the ocean from our room.

I watched Spider-man in IMAX theatre. I could hear everything very clearly.

I couldn’t remember the actor’s name.



Can is often used in question form for asking permission and giving permission. Can is also used for making polite requests

Can I borrow your pen, please?

Can I talk to the Manager please?

Can we go home now? It’s getting late.

Can I get the menu please?

Giving Permissions

You can leave now.

You can’t go outside.

You can borrow the book.

You can return it whenever you can.


Could is more formal and polite than can when it comes permissions and requests

Could I speak with Mr. Rocky please?

Could we order food from KFC today?

Could you suggest me some good action flicks?

Could you get me a cup of coffee please?

Could you send me an email regarding the new brochure please?



Can I get you anything?

Can I get you another drink?

Could I help you? (Formal)

Can I do that for you?

Can I give you a hand with that?

I can do that for you if you say so.

I can give you a lift to the metro station.




Can is used while talking about possible outcomes or possibility.

I can come and meet you tomorrow if you like.

You can earn handsome salary if you really apply yourself.

She can win the public speaking competition.

I am afraid I can’t come to your party on Sunday.


Could is used to talk about less definite possibility or suggested actions:

We could go for a walk now and then play video games.

There could be a thunderstorm later in the evening.

She could be in line for a top executive job.

I could attend meeting later.

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