Skip navigation

Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

Modal Verbs Can, Could, Be Able to, and Manage to | Basic Level

  Email this page

 Back to List of Lessons

Modal verbs are words or expressions that that add information to the main verb.

In this lesson, you will learn how to express ability or possibility in the present, past, and future.



“Can” is a modal verb that indicates ability or possibility in the present. In some sentences, it also indicates the future. “Can” is

Use the base form of the verb after “can.”

Using “can” to indicate ability or possibility

I can’t speak Spanish, but I can speak French very well.





  • I can swim.
  • She can speak Spanish.
  • We can go to the movies tonight.


Could is the past tense form of can. It is used to indicate past ability or possibility. It is also used to make polite requests or suggestions.

  • I could swim when I was younger.
  • Could you pass me the salt, please?
  • Could we meet at 2 pm instead?

Be Able to

Be able to is used to indicate ability in the present or future. It is often used as an alternative to can in more formal situations.

  • I am able to swim.
  • She will be able to speak Spanish fluently after studying for a year.
  • We should be able to finish the project by Friday.

Manage to

Manage to is used to indicate the successful completion of something that was difficult or challenging.

  • I managed to finish the marathon despite my injury.
  • She managed to persuade him to change his mind.
  • We managed to catch the last train home.