Can Cannot Can't - English Grammar Rules

Can - Cannot - Can't

English Grammar Notes

Can is a modal verb.

Can is used to express ability or to say that something is possible.

Can is the same for all subjects. We don't add an 'S' in the third person (like other verbs)

The verb that comes after Can is in the infinitive without to:

For more uses of Can see: Modal Verbs: Can - Could


To form the negative we add "not" after can to form one word: cannot.

We can also contract the negative to form can't. (can't = cannot)


To from the question we change the position of the subject and the auxiliary verb.

The main verb is still in the infinitive without to.

Remember that you can use short answers:

Summary Chart

Can - Cannot - Simple Present Tense

Impersonal Can

Sometimes You can and Can you…? are impersonal and refer to people in general.

It doesn't necessarily refer to you but people in general.

Not necessarily saying YOU can't run naked in the middle of the street but in general it is not possible for anyone.

Next activities

Try our Can - Can't - Cannot Game.

See our notes about Can and Could (Modal Verbs).

Speaking Practice: Answer the questions in this video

Download our free Can vs Cannot Worksheet (in PDF).
You can check the answers to this worksheet here: Can vs Cannot Answers.

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