Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Many Uses of the Verb Can

Can is a modal verb. It can be used in a variety of situations, depending on the context. Let's look at some of these meanings.

ABILITY: (to be able to)
  • Can you drive?
  • Can you play the piano?
  • Can you speak French?

PERMISSION: (to be allowed to)
  • You can park here.
  • You can hang your jacket up in the closet.
  • You can have dessert if you finish your peas!

REQUEST: (informal requests)
  • Can you tell John that I'll pick him up at noon?
  • Can you close the window, please. I'm cold!

POSSIBILITY: (possibilities in the present, not in the future)
  • You can find the information in a dictionary.
  • You can order a beer when you are 21.

OFFER: (polite offers of help)
  • Can I help you with those boxes?
  • Can I help you finish the project?

Courtesy of and adapted from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

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