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



Website is very helpful thank you for thıs so much

Hello, and thank you for your great grammar site.
I read this from the examples:
Past tenses are more polite:
Dan would help you if you asked him.
This is a conditional, right? Isn't it located in the present and future time? So, using the past tense in the "if" clause, followed or preceded by a "would" clause, makes a conditional in the present or in the future. Am I correct? Please, tell me. :-)

Hello dg7!
Yes, you are broadly right - but it makes only one type of conditional, one where we are talking about things which are possible, but not necessarily real:
If I had a million pounds (I don't), I would...
For things which are real, we still use will:
If it rains tomorrow, I will take the bus.

Jeremy Bee
The Learn English Team

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