Welcome to the Grammar Gameshow! Test your knowledge in this crazy quiz! The presenter is a bit strange, the points don’t make sense and the prizes could use some improvement, but at least the grammar is correct!

Who would have guessed that Liz was an undercover agent? Somehow Will always finds a way through! Anyway, that’s all behind us now as we welcome two more victims – err… we mean contestants to the show. This week, they will challenge their knowledge of the modal verb can! That tiny modal verb with such a range of meanings! Who will win through? Who will take the fall? Can you answer the questions? Find out in this episode of the Grammar Gameshow!

Modal Verb
Can and can’t are modal verbs. This means that they are always followed by a bare infinitive verb and do not change their form regardless of which subject pronoun is used.

I can run fast.
You can run fast.
He / She / It can run fast.
We can run fast.
They can run fast.

Many uses
Can and can’t have many uses. The choice depends on the speaker’s meaning within the context of the situation. Some of these uses include permissions, requests and offers, possibility and impossibility, ability and typical behaviour.

Permission: Can I go to the toilet please? You can’t smoke in here, I’m afraid.
Requests / Offer: Can I get you some food? Can’t you turn the television down?
Possibility / Impossibility: I can be there by lunchtime. He can’t have won the lottery!
Ability: It’s too heavy so I can’t lift it. She can run faster than anyone I know.
Typical behaviour: James can be very grumpy in the mornings. April can be a very wet month in England.

Verbs of the senses
See, hear, smell, taste and feel are sense verbs. When we use them to refer to perception, such as being able to see a bus, we do not usually use them in the continuous form. In order to talk about something that is being seen, heard, smelt, tasted or felt at the moment of speaking, we use can. This allows us to use these sense verbs with a present continuous meaning.

The bus is coming! I can see it at the end of the road!
I’m home! Wow! I can smell dinner! Have you been cooking?
This soup is amazing. I can taste mint.
I think there is someone outside. I can hear movement.
Well it’s dark so I can’t see anything, but I think I can feel a light switch.

Can’t help
The verb can’t help means that despite trying, someone is unable to resist doing something. Can’t help does not change its form regardless of which subject pronoun is used. It is always followed by verb-ing.

I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help smoking cigars. I love them.
She says she can’t help dancing. It’s the only thing that makes her happy.
They can’t help gossiping, can they? Don’t tell them anything else.


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