Level: beginner

We use can and can't to talk about someone's skill or general abilities:

She can speak several languages.
He can swim like a fish.
They can't dance very well.

We use can and can't to talk about the ability to do something at a specific time in the present or future:

I can see you.
Help! I can't breathe.

We use could and couldn't to talk about the past:

She could speak several languages.
I couldn't see you.

Ability: can and could 1


Ability: can and could 2


Level: intermediate

We use could have to say that someone had the ability or opportunity to do something, but did not do it:

She could have learned Swahili, but she didn't want to.
I could have danced all night. [but I didn’t]

Ability: could have 1


Ability: could have 2



Could interpret  "can" and "could" , please.
Is "could"  the past form of "can" and do we  use "could"  as "can" in the past?
Thank you!

Hello kristina26,

'Can' and 'could' are examples of modal verbs and they have many uses and meanings. In some contexts, 'could' is the past form of 'can', such as when talking about ability:

(present) I can swim / I can't swim.

(past) When I was a child, I could swim / I couldn't swim.

However, the range of meanings is much broader than this, and the relationship between 'can' and 'could' much more complex.  For example, both forms can be used in requests, with 'could' being a more polite form:

Can I have a glass of water, please?

Could I have a glass of water, please?

This page, and the other pages relating to modal verbs preceding and following it, show the various meanings of 'can' and 'could' (and other modal verbs), so my advice to you is to work through these pages and I'm sure that will help to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teacher,
I have a question about usage of could as future permission.I have found this sentence in one grammar tutorial." Could we apply for a loan again after we've found a guarantor?"-  How this sentence is right because they use present perfect tense for future permission.


The present perfect in this sentence is in a dependent clause, and the use of some tenses is different in these clauses.  We could not say 'we've found a guarantor' with future meaning by itself; however if it is part of a dependent clause then it can have future meaning.  Following 'after' in this sentence you can use the present perfect (we've found) or the present simple (we find) with very similar meaning - the present perfect emphasises that the action is completed before the other action in the sentence (applying).

Here the dependent clause is introduced by 'after', but you can find tenses used like this with similar dependent clauses introduced by other words such as when, as soon as and until.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

True Peter. That's what I know concerning dependent clause, either present perfect or present simple has similar meaning. Thank you :)

Hi Team
First of all I would like to tell you, You guys are doing excellent job, this is very helpfully to improve our English skills.
I have a question for you guys could you help me to clear this?
I used to watch many people using " He is gone and  He is excited"
I know that gone and 'ed' should be used for past tense.
Is that right to use "is " after past tense, If so, could give a more examples and 
tell me what kind of sentence is this?

Hi Mohammed Anas,
Thanks for your kind words - it's always great to hear that people like LearnEnglish.
In the sentence you mention, "He is gone and he is excited", both gone and excited are working as adjectives that come after the verb be. "He is gone" is another way of saying "he is not here now".
It's true that gone is the past participle of go, but if it were working as a verb here, it would be "he has gone" instead of "he is gone". Past participles are often used as adjectives. You can see more examples on our -ed and -ing adjectives page.
I hope this helps you understand. If it's still not clear, please ask again.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk
Thanks for your reply on this, still I have a confused about those sentence 
"He is gone "   "IS" is a present  when we using the present tense  we normally use 
is with present participle, the sentence has  "is " after past participle  why we are 
using like that? and where we can use those sentence in our daily life?
It would be help full to me If reply to this.
Once again thanks 

Hi Mohammed Anas,
You're right that we can use the present verb be + present participle to form the present continuous.
I think what might be confusing you is the fact that the past participle is not only used to form a verb (like, for example, the present perfect: "He has gone to Lucknow"), but can also be used as an adjective. In the sentence "He is gone", gone is an adjective. You can see other examples of adjectives formed from past participles under -ed adjectives on the page I referred you to before.
Just as we can say "He is tall" (subject he + is + adjective tall), we can also say "He is gone" (subject he + is + adjective gone). This sentence could be used, for example, if someone came to my house and asked "May I speak with your father, please?" If my father were at work, for example, I could reply "I'm sorry, he is gone. Please come again later."
If you have any other questions, please let me know.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,
It means can we use that method for all the present perfect sentences? As an example,

  1. He has gone
  2. I have done
  3. I have seen it some where.

Can we say these sentences like this. He is gone,I am done,I am seen it some where.
What about the meaning of those sentence. The same as original?
Thank you.