Mastering the Rules and Applications of ‘Can’ in the English Language


Learn how to effectively use the word ‘can’ in English with clear explanations of its different uses and grammatical rules, enabling you to communicate with confidence.

English: Can

Definition of Can

The word “can” has multiple meanings and can function as different parts of speech, such as a noun, a verb, or a modal verb. Here are some common definitions of “can”:

  1. Noun (container): A cylindrical container typically made of metal or aluminum, often used for storing and preserving food or beverages. For example, a can of soda or a can of soup.
  2. Verb (ability): To have the ability or skill to do something. It implies capacity or capability. For example, “I can swim” means the person has the skill or ability to swim.
  3. Modal verb (permission/ability): Used to express permission or to indicate that something is possible or likely. It is often used to make requests or ask for permission. For example, “Can I borrow your pen?” or “Can you help me with this?”
  4. Verb (preserve): To preserve or seal food or other items in a can or container. This is often done through a process known as canning, which involves heat treatment and sealing to prevent spoilage.
  5. Verb (dismissal): To reject or disregard something or someone. For example, “He can the idea of going on vacation.”

Please note that the context in which the word “can” is used determines its specific meaning.

How is “Can” used in English? What are the rules of use of “Can”?

The word “can” is used in English in several different ways. Here are the main uses and rules for its use:

  1. Modal verb (ability/permission):
    • Ability: “Can” is used to express someone’s ability or capacity to do something. It indicates that someone has the skill, knowledge, or physical capability to perform an action. Example: “She can speak three languages.”
    • Permission: “Can” is used to ask for or give permission to do something. Example: “Can I use your computer?” or “You can go now.”


    • In the present tense, “can” remains the same for all subjects (I, you, he, she, it, we, they): “I can swim” or “They can play tennis.”
    • To form negative sentences, use “can’t” or “cannot”: “She can’t drive” or “They cannot attend the party.”
    • In questions, invert the subject and “can”: “Can he come with us?” or “Can you help me?”
  2. Noun (container):
    • “Can” refers to a cylindrical container, typically made of metal or aluminum, used for storing food, beverages, or other items. Example: “I bought a can of soup.”
  3. Verb (preserve):
    • “Can” can be used as a verb to describe the process of preserving or sealing food or other items in a can or container. Example: “They canned the vegetables for the winter.”
  4. Verb (dismissal):
    • “Can” can also be used as a verb to mean to reject, disregard, or discard something or someone. Example: “He can the proposal.”

Remember, the specific usage and meaning of “can” depend on the context in which it is used.

How to use the word Can in a sentence?

Here are 20 sample sentences demonstrating the use of the word “can” in different contexts:

  1. I can ride a bicycle.
  2. Can you pass me the salt, please?
  3. They can’t attend the meeting tomorrow.
  4. Can I use your phone to make a call?
  5. She can speak French fluently.
  6. We can’t afford to buy a new car right now.
  7. Can he play the piano?
  8. Can you help me with this math problem?
  9. I can’t believe I finished the marathon!
  10. Can we go to the movies tonight?
  11. The soup is in a can on the shelf.
  12. She can’t eat gluten because she has celiac disease.
  13. Can you please close the door on your way out?
  14. I can’t go to the party because I have to work late.
  15. Can he come over to play video games?
  16. Can you lend me some money until next week?
  17. I can’t find my keys anywhere!
  18. Can you believe the news we heard today?
  19. They can’t wait to go on vacation next month.
  20. Can you believe she can recite the entire poem from memory?

These sentences cover different uses of “can” as a modal verb (ability/permission), a negative form (can’t), and as a noun.

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