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

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Ability: can and could 2

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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

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Ability: could have 2

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Comments

I'm really confused and I need your help with these modals.
You ……… have the car inspected next week. The registration expires soon.
(must - have to - need to)
Are all correct in this context?
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

All three options are grammatically correct.

I think the third option (need to) is the best, but the second (have to) is also possible. The first option (must) does not seem a natural choice in any normal context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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.

 

Peter

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.

Hello,
I am struggling to understand the use of modal verbs in the following situation. The situation is I am having a chat with someone about a friend's mother who was to arrive to the city I live in last week. Here are the three ways that I thought this could be conveyed but i would really appreciate your guidance.
1) She must have arrived now 2) She will have arrived now 3) She should have arrived now.
In the situation that I have provided, which of the above three sentences is most appropriate to use and if all three can be used then what is the difference among them?
Thank you so much.

Hello autumn,

All three sentences are possible and I'm afraid it's not possible for me to say which is correct without knowing how you see the situation. In addition, modal verbs have different uses and so can be used to convey different ideas.

That said, in general, 'must have arrived' suggests you strongly believe, 'will have arrived' expresses much the same idea, suggesting it would be unusual if not, and 'should have arrived' suggests much the same thing, i.e. that she will be there unless something unusual has happened.

By the way, in all three sentences I'd suggest 'by now' instead of 'now'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much Kirk!

Hi Teachers,

Is it "May I know who you are ?" or "May I know who are you?"?

Thanks!

Regards,
Tim

Hello Tim,

The first one is correct. It is a reported question and therefore has this word order.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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