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



sorry, I don't understand the point related to "must". Is "must" correct here or not.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

In the context you provided, we would not use must.

Please note that we generally do not comment on questions from other sources. We're happy to answer questions about our own material or about the language generally, but we don't check exercises or questions from textbooks or similar sources.



The LearnEnglish Team

I'm sorry for disturbing you but I just try to improve my English. I am a teacher of English in Egypt and I sometimes face some exercises in our outside books which really confuse me. You are a reliable and trusted source so I hope you still receive my notes. Thank you so much.

Do we use 'shall' instead of 'should'? For instance we talk about the result of drizzling that it causes mess on streets. We know that streets are in bad condition so there is a mess on the streets due to their bad condition itself, not because of the drizzling. So can we say: Therefore, drizzling shall not be called a distress. Our streets shall be called a distress.

Hello Zeeshan Siddiqii

I would recommend saying 'we shouldn't call our streets a mess' or something similar here. 'should' works better because you are describing the best thing to talk about the streets in this situation. Note that 'distress' isn't really appropriate in this context in standard British English -- I think 'mess', the word you used earlier, works better here.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please help me?
What is the difference between "didn't have to do" and "needn't have done"?
We didn’t have to run to the museum because it was already closed when we got there.
We needn’t have run to the museum because it was already closed when we got there.
Thank you. I appreciate your helping me.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

When we use needn't have it means we did something and it was not necessary.

When we use didn't need to it is not clear if we did something or not.


For example:

I didn't need to go to work. [we don't know if I went to work or not]

I needn't have gone to work. [I went to work and it was not necessary]



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Team!
I want to ask a question.
I saw this sentence in a technical book.But I don't understand the meaning and duty of "to" used after shall modal verb.Here is the sentence:
"Unless otherwise specified,all codes,standarts and recommended practises herein shall be to latest editions,addendums and suplements issued before March 17, 2017"
Is this sentence grammatically true?And the meaning of this sentence unclear for me.
Could you please explain?
Thank you!

Hello Goktung123,
The meaning of the sentence is that all of the specified codes etc are relevant to the most recent editions (etc), not to earlier ones.
The sentence is not completely grammatical. There are spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes in it and I would not like to try to explain something which may also be an error. This is why we tend not to provide explanations here of language from unknown sources, but rather focus on explaining the material on our own pages.
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter!
Thank you for your explanation.Can we say that "to" in that sentence has spelling mistake?I thought that it would be "the".Can we say that?

Thank you so much again!