Modal verbs (modal verbs) are very widely used in English, so the ability to use them correctly is very important. To learn this, you must know the distinctive features of these words, and, in some cases, justified their use. Let's look at the most used modal verbs: can /could (be able to). But first of all will understand what modal verbs and how they differ from normal verbs.

What verbs are called modal?

Unlike regular English verbs, modal verbs do not represent any processes or States, but only indicate the relation of the acting person to the action. For this reason, they are not used independently, but are always part composed of verbs of the predicate. For example: I can write it in a song (I can write/describe it in the song). Modal verb can (could)
In the English language, relatively few words of this type. The most used of them is the modal verb can (could), may (might), must.

The unique properties of modal verbs

  • Words of this type belong to defective verbs (lack of) because I don't possess all the properties of ordinary verbs. For example, of the three above individual form in the past tense, have modal verbs: can (could), may (might). Most of the other similar terms are deprived of such properties as time of the future perfect forms, and passive voice, continued type (e.g.: need, ought to and dare, must). In most cases, instead use the appropriate equivalent words.
  • Modal verbs do not have non-personal forms (infinitive, gerund and participle).
  • Modal words can never act as an independent part of the sentence, only in conjunction with another verb in the infinitive form but without the usual particles to (in addition to need to, ought to). For example: I believe I can fly (I believe I can fly), but I need to feel loved (I feel loved).
  • Unlike other verbs in the Present Simple (present tense) in the third person singular of get the ending –s, the modal does not have such features. For example: She can read very well (She can read very well), but My sister reads tales (My sister reads fairy tales).

The modal verb can in English

This modal is literally translated as "to be able to do something" or "to be able". It is most common in the language of the proud Britons, and is used in speech when the speaker wants to tell that he can, is able or capable of. Example: Joan can wax her car in 2 hours (Joanna is able to cover with wax the car for two hours).

Modal verb can (could) refers to the modal verbs, after which the piece to never used. But, as mentioned above, it has a particular shape could in the past tense. And in the future tense it will be replaced with equivalent be able to. Example: He shall be able to repair your microwave oven tomorrow (He will be able to fix Your microwave tomorrow). It is worth to note that in this sentence the verb shall is not as modal, but as an auxiliary word to denote future time.

What meaning is in the sentences, the word can?

  • Most often, the verb can (could) means the ability or capacity to do something (physical and mental). In such a case, the translation uses the Russian word "to be able" or "able". For example: Mary can't come to the phone now (Mary can't come to the phone right now)
  • Modal can is used in a sentence, if it is of any well known statement and is translated using the verb "can". For example: A polar bear can live up to 18 years on average in the wild (Polar bear can live in the wild about 18 years). It is worth considering the fact that the modal verb could is never used in this sense.
  • Quite often, the word can is used in requests, prohibitions, permissions, and sometimes offers to do something. For example, the classic appeal of the consultants in the store: Can I help you? (Can I get you something to help?). This example is worth remembering, because in order to offer something or ask for permission is to use the interrogative form: Can I (you, we, she, he, it)... But in order to allow someone to do something, can be used in an ordinary affirmative sentence. For example: You can do it right now (have You/can You/could do it right now). Forbidding something usually used in negative sentences, which can be translated by using the word "no": You can't take it with you (You can't take it with him/You can't take it with him).
  • In some cases the modal verb can (could) can be used to indicate doubt (a sentence with a negation), or astonishment (interrogative). Then its translation uses the expression "cannot be", "is", "is not believed" and "probably", "maybe". For example: Can this be true? (Is it true?) By the way, in this case, when we have in mind that the action takes place in the past, could is used instead of can't have-You can't have forgotten all I told you about him? (Have you forgotten everything I told you about him?).

Other modal verbs with similar meaning

In some cases there may be as synonymous verbs can/could must may/might. Thus, the modal may and his individual form might used in the past tense have the meaning of possibility, prohibition, permission or asking someone about something: May I ask you? (Can I ask you something?). This question-the request can be translated into English differently: Can I ask you something?

Must is the most formal of all the above modal verbs. It is used to denote request, order or insistent advice: You must do it (You're supposed/obliged to do so). Unlike can and may, he has no special forms to use the past tense, but equivalent have to.

Modal verbs can, could, must, may, can with equal success be used in the proposals-requests. But the verb must carries a connotation of obligation, may – formalities, can – neutral, and could be an extreme degree of politeness.

In some cases, could can have the same value as the words may/might. But it is worth remembering that in the negative form they are somewhat different. For example: She couldn't have seen him (She couldn't see him), but She mightn't have seen him (She probably couldn't see it). In the first sentence, couldn't expresses a strong belief in the impossibility of a certain event, and the second mightn't denotes the question, a probability but not with conviction.

Could and be able to

Usually in the present tense uses a modal verb can in the future be able to, and in the past in most cases it could (although it is permissible to replace it with the equivalent to was/were able to). For example, the sentence: I could see that she was nervous (I could see that she was nervous), it is possible to translate and so I was able to see that she was nervous. However, the first option is to use preferable. But the difference is – the modal verb could indicates the ability to do something in principle, but was/were able to for such a possibility only in some specific case.

Form could although and is considered to be intended for used in the past tense, but can be used freely in the present and future. The most common use in speech could such:

  • The probability value of some event, if it can be easily replaced by other words modal: may/might. For example: You could be the one who listens (You can be the one who listens).
  • To the offers-conditions: I could be the one who stays, baby, if you call my name (I may be the only one to stay, baby, if you call me by name).
  • The role offers any service or advice someone could is used only in affirmative sentences, the past and future tenses. For example: You could be more healthy if you do exercise regularly (You could be healthier if I did the exercises regularly).
  • In the role of polite requests relating to the immediate future: Could I borrow your pen? (Can I borrow your pen?). In this case, you can freely replace could the verbs can or may.

  • As the ability in the past, however, if it were short, it is acceptable to use only the negative form is couldn't. For example: Jane could speak Polish when she was a kid (Jane knew how to speak Polish when I was a child). Yesterday, my dad couldn't lift the couch by itself (last night, my father couldn't lift the couch on their own).

How to build different types of sentences with the modal verb can?

The classic statement is by using the following scheme: the current person can/could active secondary verb of the sentence. For example: I can hear the birds (I can hear the birds).

In the case of denial in the circuit after a modal verb is added to the part not. For example: She can not read very fast (It can't very fast to read).

Interrogative sentence the order will differ from the affirmative and negative: can/could the current person in the verb of the secondary members. For example: Can I take a picture with you? (You can take a picture with you?).

Expressions with modal words can and could

The verb can (could), like most modal words, is a part of several well-established phrases. The most famous among them are:

Can't stand somebody/something – not to make/be annoyed by someone/something. For example: Nobody can stand Tom when he smokes a cigar (No one can't stand Tom when he smokes a cigar/ All annoyed when Tom smokes a cigar).

Can't/couldn't but do something – have no other choice but to do something. For example: I couldn't but agree with her (I had no choice but to agree with her).

Can't/couldn't help doing something not able to resist not to do something. For example, the name of the song by Elvis Presley: Can't Help Falling in Love (can't help falling in love).

Modal verb can (could): exercises

Few things are as promotes the absorption of the new material as its practical application. So here are a few exercises that will help to deal with the modal verb can.

In the first exercise you must choose the correct form: can/could or its equivalent for all future time be able to and insert it in the gaps.

In the second task, you need to make a choice of what to put in the blank: can/can't or could/couldn't.
In the final exercise, you want to insert into the gaps to modal verbs: can, could, may, must, shall, should, or would.
The modal verb can and in all its forms are an integral part of any polite conversation, and so they can not do without learning the language of Britons and Americans, especially its spoken form. Information about these modal words a lot, so it will be easy to remember clearly. And the best way to achieve this is to constantly train, doing exercises and interacting in English with friends.