CAN – Modal and Noun

Can is one of the most commonly used modals, but make sure
you know all its meanings. A modal is a word that gives a special
meaning to a verb. Examples of modals are CAN, COULD and MAY. You can
learn how to use these other modal verbs in some of my other audio blogs.

Meaning 1: If you can do
something, you are able to do it. This meaning expresses ability

Examples: 1. “Can you speak
English?”   “Yes, I can.” 
(note: In the
question, can is a weak sound, pronounced /kən/. In the answer, can is a strong
sound, pronounced /kæn/. In the other examples, please notice whether the
pronunciation of can is strong or weak.)

2. I will do all that I can to help you. (note:
this means “I will do everything that I am able to do in order to help you.”)
3. “Can you play the piano?”    “No, I
can’t, but I can play the guitar.”

Meaning 2: We sometimes use ‘can’
when we are giving permission or asking for permission.

Examples: 1. “Can I use your
pen, please?”   “Yes, you can. Please go ahead.”

2. You can’t park here because it is a ‘Residents
Only’ zone. 
(note: this means ‘you are not allowed to park here.’)
Meaning 3: We sometimes use ‘can’
when we want to request something in an
informal style

Examples: 1. If you
find my bag, can you please let me know?  
Another way to say this is “If you find my bag, would you mind
letting me know?” This is 
formal than ‘can’
2. Can you call your sister? It’s time for dinner.

Meaning 4: We
use ‘can’ to express possibility. 

Examples: 1. You can
buy milk at the shop on the corner. 
(note: this
means “It is possible to buy milk at the shop on the corner.”)

2. You can be very funny at times. (note:
this means “It is possible for you to be very funny sometimes.”)

3. “Lack of exercise can make you fat.”  “Can it? I
will go for a run, then!”

Meaning 5: We use ‘can’ when we
are making a polite offer of help.

Examples: 1. Mr Robertson
will be back soon. Can I help you at all?

2. Can I offer you some help with your bags? They look very

So these are the meanings of CAN as a modal, but the
word CAN is also a noun!
Meaning: A can is
a closed metal container, often shaped like a cylinder, in which some
kinds of drink and food are sold. We also call this a ‘tin’.

Examples: 1. I bought three
cans of soup at the shop. 
(note: we can also say “I
bought three tins of soup at the shop.”)

2. In this recipe, you need one can of tomatoes.


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