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    Learn English > English lessons and exercises > English test #122790: Can - can't - could - couldn't
    > Other English exercises on the same topics: Frequent mistakes | Modals [Change theme]
    > Similar tests: - Placement test beginners: Check your spelling - Past simple or present perfect - Although / in spite of / despite - Again/ back - FOR and its use - Differences between Like and As - Do or Make? - Bill, tip, fare, fine, fee
    > Double-click on words you don't understand


    Can - can't - could - couldn't


     1) CAPACITY and FREEDOM the subject has to ACT (or not):

     Physical or intellectual Capacity (present= Can; past= Could)

    CAN is the modal auxiliary expressing physical or intellectual capacity. In the negative, CAN'T expresses physical or intellectual incapacity but it is also an INTERDICTION. 

    Couldn't indicates that an action couldn't be done in the past.  

    -  Running is Tim's favourite sport; he can run very fast... (physical capacity)

    - They couldn't repair my car ; I'll have to buy a new one. (incapacity in the past);

     

                                     

     

     

    2) PERMISSION: in modern and daily English, THE FREEDOM of ACTION (to act, or not to act!) is expressed with CAN. Refusal will be built with 'CAN'T'. 

     -  Can I borrow your book, please?  ( less formal than 'May I borrow... ?' and less polite than Could I borrow...?')

    -  Yes, Kevin, you can leave the table now, but you can't leave the house!

    3) For other tenses, you must use an equivalent of «CAN» : to be able to/ to manage to.

    - You will manage to run such a long distance if you train regularly. 

    4) CAN'T : - expresses incapacity, but also impossibility, («* it is impossible that... »), the interdiction of doing an action (in conversation): it's here the negative form of CAN (physical capacity)

    - No, Lucy, you can't go to your friend's alone ; it's too far... ( incapacity which comes to an interdiction)... You can't walk that far safely.(physical incapacity 

     

                                                             

     

     

    I can't help + V + -ing = I'm unable to refrain from, avoid: I can't help laughing when I see her...

    You can't have it all...      
     CAN'T HAVE + past participle: expresses an impossibility and incapacity in the past.  

    - He can't have found the key... It was hidden where he couldn't go.

     

    I'm quite sure you'll manage to find your way between "capacity and incapacity", what's "possible and what's impossible".

    I know you'll pass the test with Flying Colours. I give you THE FORCE.  

     

     



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    English exercise "Can - can't - could - couldn't" created by here4u with The test builder. [More lessons & exercises from here4u]
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    A. «I’m sorry, I you to the library today. I Sam there yesterday either, but I promise I drive there tomorrow, with the two of you and will stay with you for two hours.»

    B. He's so humble... He doesn’t want to admit it, but he five languages fluently.

    C. «Really? He your brother... He’s so different from you…»

    D. « please carry this box for the lady? She’s not strong enough to do it herself.»

    E. «Of course I can lend you £10, but I hope you bring them back to me before the end of the week.»

    F. «Excuse me Sir, tell me the way to the station, please?» «I’m afraid I ! I don’t know this town at all.»

    G. He you to the Mall! That’s impossible! He at all as he’s never touched a steering wheel.

     

     

                                                   








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