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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



Hi SooTW,

The past form in English has many uses and one of these is for politeness. I don't know the full context of your conversation but one possible reason is that 'What was your name?' sounded more polite. It could also be that you told the other person your name previously and they were thinking back to that time.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I am not clear about using must for very polite invitation. I knew that must is very strong and some time must is used to give instruction. So, could you explain about how to use or where to use must for polite invitation in detail and more examples?

Hello HtetMMyint,

There is no grammatical difference in use, thought for polite invitations we often add 'really' as in 'You really must...'

The meaning is clear only through the context and, if spoken, through polite intonation. I think it's quite easy to tell from the context whether someone is politely inviting or ordering a person to do something.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk and Perter,
would you please tell me the difference in meanings of these three nouns,
and the difference in using their verbs.
best regards

Hello Misam,

Thanks for your comment. To give you a complete answer would take some time, so it would be best if you first look up these words in a dictionary, for example using Cambridge Dictionaries Online box on the right side of this page. That should give you answers to some of your questions and if there are still specific questions you have, we'd be happy to answer them.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk
whenever i write anything so i have a feeling of incorrect
what should i do?

Hello Muhammad,

On the one hand, this can be valuable, as it can encourage you to check your work and to learn accurate grammar, vocabulary and collocations. On the other hand, making mistakes is a perfectly natural part of learning, and if this feeling gets too strong, it could discourage you from using new and more advanced forms. Without knowing you better, it's impossible for me to recommend anything more specific, but please keep this in mind as you think about this. Finally, you might find it useful to read the advice on our Help page.

I hope this helps you!

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! May is more formal than could. Isn't it?

Hi ozan1071,

In general, that is correct. However, remember that they are not synonyms in all contexts but can have different meanings and uses, as this page and other pages on modal verbs show.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team


is it possible to use like,,, Hi could you please pass it to me ?