Modal Verbs “Can” and “Can’t” Usage

The words “can” and “can’t” are both forms of the modal verb “can” and are used to express ability, possibility, permission, and requests. Here’s a breakdown of their usage:


Ability: “I can knit a cardigan.”
Possibility: “She can bring some food.”
Permission: “You can use my computer.”
Requests: “Can you come with me?”
Polite suggestions: “Can I offer you some coffee?”


Inability: “I can’t speak German.”
Prohibition: “You can’t use this device.”
Impossibility: “It can’t be true!”
Denial of permission: “You can’t go in without a ticket.”
Denial of ability: “I can’t run a marathon.”

When choosing between “can” and “can’t,” consider the intended meaning and context of the sentence. “Can’t” is the contraction of “cannot,” and it is generally used in informal situations or casual conversations. “Cannot” is more formal and is often used in written or professional contexts.

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