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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



I was not here .I had been in mubai.
I came across this sentence in an english magazine. Is this sentence correct? What does it really mean .

Hello Praveen kumar ntc,

The two tenses used here are described on our talking about the past page. I think that should help you, but if you have another specific question after that, please let us know.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi. I'm trying to find information on whether it is correct to answer a "Would you like a / to..." question (offer) by saying "Yes, I would. or No, I wouldn't."
It seems to me that the person who answers considers that the question is hypothetical, as in "If everyone had to play sports, would you like to play tennis?" Rather than "I'm playing tennis tonight. Would you like to come with me?"
Thank you.

Hi paulorspedroso,

The answer to both questions (the hypothetical situation and the invitation) is the same: Yes, I would or No, I wouldn't.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Please, is this sentence correct? "It's unfair to judge people by their action"

thanks so much for the correction.

Hello roc1,

That is almost correct. The correct form would be:

It's unfair to judge people by their actions.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I came across this sentence and I wonder if its right or not ...
"I would sit there before I asked for a permission"
It just doesn't make an sense to me....

Hello felix barndon,

That sentence is almost fine, grammatically speaking. Whether or not it makes sense will depend on the context. 'Would sit' describes typical behaviour in the past, so the speaker usually did this before...

The only thing about the sentence which seems unlikely to be correct is the use of the indefinite article 'a' before 'permission'. Permission is usually uncountable, so we would normally say 'ask for permission'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I had a question in my exam and I'm not sure how it's done.
Question: Write down a sentence that means the same as the previous sentence :
- That's not Tom who you saw yesterday. He has gone to Italy.
- It couldn't _____________________________________.
How do we answer it?