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Daily English
English Grammar

Can – Can’t

“Can” and “Can’t” have many different meanings in English. It indicates the capacity to act or a possibility of taking action. Additionally, it’s used to discuss things that are permitted, to make requests, and even to discuss the potential for doing something.

When to use Can – Can’t

We use “can” and “can’t” to express one’s capacity or incapacity to perform an action. This can encompass a broad range of abilities, including the ability to solve a problem, perform a task, or achieve a goal. “can” implies that the person has the skill or capability to do something, while “can’t” signifies the absence of that ability, indicating a limitation or inability to accomplish the task at hand.

We use “can” and “can’t” as:

1. Ability

She can play the piano beautifully.
In this sentence, “can” is used to express her ability to play the piano.

2. Inability
Peter cannot drive a car.
Here, “can’t” is used to express Peter’s inability to drive a car.

3. Request
Can you tell me the way to the market?
In this sentence, “can” is used to request the way of the market.

4. Permissions
Can I borrow your pen, please?
Here, “can” is used to request permission to borrow a pen.

5. Possibility

My girlfriend can visit me today.
In this sentence, “can” is used to indicate the possibility of his girlfriend visiting him.

6. Inappropriateness

You can’t park here. It is illegal.
Here, “can” is used to show that it’s inappropriate to park here.

Affirmative (+) form of can

“Can” serves to convey an affirmative sense of ability, possibility, permission, and request within the context of an action. In essence, it signifies the presence of an ability, possibility, or permission to execute the action, or it indicates a request for the action to be undertaken.

(base form)
I+can+speak English

Subject + can + V1

Here are some examples:
I can swim.
Explanation: This sentence indicates that the speaker possesses the ability to swim.

She can speak three languages fluently.
Explanation: It highlights the person’s capability to fluently speak three languages.

They can run a marathon.
Explanation: It expresses their capacity to complete a marathon race.

Affirmative can examples

We have compiled a series of affirmative “can” sentences to help you better understand how this versatile modal verb is used. These examples showcase different situations where “can” is employed to express abilities, capacities, and possibilities.

He can play the guitar beautifully.
Explanation: This showcases his skill and ability to play the guitar with proficiency.

We can solve this math problem.
Explanation: It suggests that the group has the ability to find a solution to the math problem.

The chef can prepare a delicious meal.
Explanation: It emphasizes the chef’s skill in cooking and making tasty dishes.

I can lift heavy weights at the gym.
Explanation: It reveals the speaker’s physical strength and ability to lift heavy weights.

She can drive a manual transmission car.
Explanation: It shows her competence in operating a manual car.

They can bake a cake from scratch.
Explanation: It indicates their capability to make a cake without using a pre-made mix.

He can fix the broken computer.
Explanation: This implies his ability to repair a malfunctioning computer.

We can reach the summit of the mountain.
Explanation: It expresses the group’s potential to reach the top of the mountain.

The scientist can conduct complex experiments.
Explanation: It highlights the scientist’s proficiency in conducting intricate experiments.

I can complete the project on time.
Explanation: It suggests that the speaker is capable of finishing the project within the specified timeframe.

She can hit a home run in baseball.
Explanation: It signifies her ability to achieve a home run in a baseball game.

They can paint a stunning landscape.
Explanation: It showcases their artistic skill in creating beautiful landscape paintings.

He can dance gracefully.
Explanation: This describes his ability to dance with elegance and skill.

We can understand complex scientific theories.
Explanation: It indicates the group’s capacity to comprehend intricate scientific concepts.

The pilot can fly a commercial airplane.
Explanation: It emphasizes the pilot’s competence in flying large commercial aircraft.

I can write a compelling story.
Explanation: It suggests the speaker’s capability to compose an engaging narrative.

She can fix a flat tire on a bicycle.
Explanation: This shows her ability to repair a punctured bicycle tire.

Negative (-) form of can

The negative form of the modal verb “can” is “cannot”, which is also shortened as “can’t”. It is used to express the negative meaning of ability, possibility, permission, and request in the context of an action. In other words, it indicates that there is no necessary ability, possibility, or permission to carry out the action, or that a request is made for the action not to be carried out.

(base form)
I+can’t+speak English

Subject + can’t + V1

Here are some examples:
I can’t swim.
Explanation: This sentence indicates that the speaker lacks the ability to swim.

She can’t speak Mandarin Chinese fluently.
Explanation: It highlights her inability to fluently speak Mandarin Chinese.

They can’t run a marathon due to their injuries.
Explanation: It signifies that they are unable to complete a marathon because of injuries.

Negative can (can’t) examples

We have gathered a selection of negative “can’t” sentences to provide you with a clear understanding of how this modal verb is used to express limitations and restrictions. These examples showcase various situations where “can’t” denotes the absence of ability, capacity, or permission.

He can’t play the piano despite his efforts.
Explanation: This suggests that, despite trying, he is unable to play the piano.

We can’t find our way out of this maze.
Explanation: It expresses their inability to navigate and exit the maze.

The cat can’t catch the elusive mouse.
Explanation: It shows the cat’s inability to catch the mouse despite its attempts.

I can’t fix the leaking faucet.
Explanation: This implies the speaker’s inability to repair the dripping faucet.

She can’t tolerate spicy food.
Explanation: It indicates her inability to handle or enjoy spicy foods.

They can’t access the restricted area without permission.
Explanation: It suggests their inability to enter the restricted area without proper authorization.

He can’t remember his childhood memories.
Explanation: This highlights his inability to recall memories from his childhood.

We can’t stop the rain from falling.
Explanation: It signifies our inability to control or prevent rainfall.

The car can’t start because of a dead battery.
Explanation: It explains why the car is unable to start, due to a dead battery.

I can’t reach the high shelf without a ladder.
Explanation: This indicates the speaker’s inability to access the high shelf without a ladder.

She can’t break the solid rock with her bare hands.
Explanation: It emphasizes her inability to break the solid rock using only her hands.

They can’t complete the project on time due to delays.
Explanation: It suggests that they are unable to finish the project within the specified timeframe because of delays.

He can’t understand advanced quantum physics theories.
Explanation: This highlights his inability to comprehend complex quantum physics theories.

We can’t fly without the proper equipment.
Explanation: It signifies our inability to fly without the necessary equipment, such as wings or an aircraft.

The restaurant can’t serve dinner after 9 PM.
Explanation: It indicates the restaurant’s policy of not serving dinner after 9 PM.

I can’t enjoy horror movies because they scare me.
Explanation: This expresses the speaker’s inability to enjoy horror movies due to fear.

She can’t afford to buy a new car right now.
Explanation: It shows her financial inability to purchase a new car at the moment.

Question (?) form of can and can’t

Question sentences with the modal verbs “can” and “can’t” are used to inquire or request about the ability, possibility, or permission of an action to be carried out or not carried out. To make a question with can, we simply put it before the subject of the sentence.

(base form)
can+I+speak English

Can + subject + V1

Here are some examples:
Can you swim?
Explanation: This is a simple yes or no question asking if the person has the ability to swim.

Can she play the guitar?
Explanation: It inquires about her ability to play the guitar.

Can they come to the party tonight?
Explanation: This asks whether it’s possible or permissible for them to attend the party.

Also it is possible to create questions with “can’t”. “Can’t” questions are a valid and useful way to seek information or clarification about limitations or restrictions.

(base form)
can’t+I+speak English

Can’t + subject + V1

Can’t you hear the music from the party next door?
Explanation: This question expresses surprise or disbelief about the inability to hear the music from the neighboring party.

Can’t the company provide more flexible work hours for employees?
Explanation: This question suggests that there might be obstacles or constraints preventing the company from offering flexible work hours.

Can’t we find a solution to reduce energy consumption in our office building?
Explanation: This question acknowledges a challenge or perceived difficulty in finding a solution to reduce energy consumption.

Question form of can and can’t examples

We have assembled a set of question based “can” and “can’t” sentences to help clarify how this versatile modal verb is used in inquiries. These examples showcase different contexts where “can” and “can’t” is employed to seek information about abilities, possibilities, permissions, seek information, clarification and capacities.

Can he speak French fluently?
Explanation: It inquires about his proficiency in speaking French.

Can we use your laptop for a moment?
Explanation: This asks for permission to briefly use someone’s laptop.

Can the cat go outside?
Explanation: It asks whether the cat is allowed to go outdoors.

Can I have a slice of cake?
Explanation: This is a polite request for a portion of cake.

Can you explain this concept to me?
Explanation: It asks if the person is capable of providing an explanation for a specific concept.

Can she attend the meeting tomorrow morning?
Explanation: It inquires about her availability or ability to be present at the meeting.

Can they finish the project by the deadline?
Explanation: This questions their capability to complete the project within the specified timeframe.

Can he fix the broken computer?
Explanation: It asks whether he has the skill or ability to repair the malfunctioning computer.

Can we visit the museum on Sunday?
Explanation: This inquires about the possibility or permission to visit the museum on a specific day.

Can’t he solve this puzzle?
Explanation: This question inquires about his inability to solve the puzzle. It seeks confirmation or information regarding a specific limitation or challenge.

Can’t we go to the park today?
Explanation: This question expresses a desire to go to the park but implies a restriction or hindrance. It seeks to understand if going to the park is not possible for some reason.

Can’t the dog enter the kitchen?
Explanation: This question asks whether there’s a restriction or rule preventing the dog from entering the kitchen. It seeks clarification about the dog’s limitations.

Can’t I have some more ice cream?
Explanation: This question is a polite request for more ice cream, implying there might be a restriction or concern about having additional servings. It seeks permission or understanding of any limits.

Can’t they attend the concert with us?
Explanation: This question suggests that there might be an obstacle or constraint preventing them from attending the concert. It seeks information or clarification about their availability.

Can’t the car be fixed today?
Explanation: This question inquires about the inability to repair the car on the same day. It seeks information about potential limitations or delays.

Can’t she eat spicy food?
Explanation: This question asks about her dietary limitations, specifically her inability to consume spicy food. It seeks information regarding her preferences or dietary restrictions.

Can’t you come to the meeting tomorrow?
Explanation: This question suggests that there might be a reason or conflict preventing the person from attending the meeting. It seeks to understand the limitations on their availability.

Can’t the children play in the living room?
Explanation: This question asks whether there is a restriction or rule prohibiting the children from playing in the living room. It seeks clarification regarding their play area.

Can’t the project be finished by the end of the week?
Explanation: This question inquires about the inability to complete the project within the specified timeframe. It seeks information about potential obstacles or delays in the project’s progress.

Frequently asked questions about Can – Can’t

When do we use Can – Can’t?

We use “can” as:

What are the forms of Can – Can’t?

There are 3 forms of Can – Can’t: Affirmative (+) form, Negative (-) form and Question (?) form.

How can we form Can – Can’t sentences?

For Affirmative (+) form: Subject + can + V1
For Negative (-) form: Subject + can’t + V1
For Question (?) form: Can + subject + V1

What are example sentences for Can Can’t?

For Affirmative (+): We can take the bus to New York.
For Negative (-): We can’t go to the cinema tomorrow.
For Question (?): Can you speak English?

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