Two Minute English

Use of can and can't

 Can and can't are used to express ability, i.e. your capacity to do something, and also to seek permission when you want to do something. In this lesson we have a look at several conversations where Can and Can't are used in different ways.

Listen to the lesson carefully and practice the phrases at the end. Play it again if you need to.

In this lesson we will tell you how to seek permission to do something, and also to tell someone whether you can or can’t do something.

Go out with friends

John : Hey Susan, Ben just called, he asked me to hang out with him.

Susan : But John! It’s almost Christmas you have to put up the decorations.

John : I can always do that later. Can’t I?

Susan : John! You can hang out with your friends later too.

John : You are telling me I can’t go out?

Susan : I am saying you shouldn’t.

John : Alright dear. I will call him up and tell him I can’t come.

Dinner plans

John : Are you sure this is a good idea? We can always order something.

Susan : Of course it is! I’ve planned everything. I can make us dinner today.

John : If you are so certain you can cook, why do I smell smoke?

Susan : Oh, no! I can’t believe I forgot to turn off the oven!

Job Interview

Susan : Would you mind telling me about your computer skills, Mr. Harper?

John : I am an expert with MS Word and Excel and I can manage databases on Access.

Susan : Okay, very good. And could you travel on business?

John : Absolutely! Yes.

Susan : How soon can you start?

John : As soon as you need me to, Ma’am!

Friends talking

John : When I was younger, I couldn’t travel abroad because I didn’t have the money and I couldn’t speak English.

Susan : But you currently have a job that pays you well and you can also speak English now. So you should travel now.

John : Well...I can afford to travel but I can’t do it because I don’t have the time!

Susan : If you really want to travel, you can find a way.

John : You’re right, I can and I should.

Student and teacher

John : Could I talk to you for a minute, Ms. Smith?

Susan : Yes, what is it, John?

John : Could I take my test next week? I feel I am not ready to take it tomorrow.

Susan : I’m afraid you should talk to the coordinator about this.

John : Okay, I will.

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