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A lot of students think that "could" is the past tense of "can". This is NOT always true!
Most students are completely confused about when to use "could have".
Are you one of these students? Don't worry! I'm going to help you fix that. KEEP READING!
So, what's the difference between "can", "could" and "could have"? And how do you use them in sentences? Here's a simple explanation that will help you to use these words with more confidence.
The first thing you need to know is that the word "can" has TWO meanings. Sometimes "can" is used to talk about skills and capabilities. Here's an example: I can climb a tree. Climbing a tree requires certain skills. Some people can do it and other people can't.
"Can" is also used to talk about possibilities. Here's an example of that: We can spend the day here. In this sentence, we're not talking about skills. We're describing something that's possible. We're just not sure if it's going to happen.
When you're thinking about using "can", "could" or "could have" in a sentence, the first thing you need to do is figure out which definition you're using. Are you talking about skills or capabilities? Are you talking about possibilities?
The next decision you need to make is what tense to use. Are you talking about the past or the present? Once you know these two things (definition and tense), you're ready to choose the right words. Just follow these rules:
Here are two charts to help you study and remember the decisions that you need to make in order to choose the right word(s).
If you still have questions about "can", "could" and "could have", then watch this free class. We practiced using these words in sentences.
By now, you should be able to use "can", "could" and "could have" with more confidence. But what about describing skills and possibilities in the future? Here are the simplest ways to describe these situations.
Now you know the basics of describing skills, capabilities and possibilities in the past, present and future. If you have more questions after reading this article and watching the video, let me know. You can put your questions in the comments section below.
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