Can In Present Tense: 7 Facts You Should Know


Modal auxiliary verbs are the common verbs to represent “hypothetical situations”. “Can” is the most common among them. Let us discuss the usage of ‘can’ in the present tense.

The modal verb “can,” along with the root form of the main verb, is the best way to show someone’s ability or any possibility in the present tense.

Now, we are going to learn facts and explanations related to the use of “can” in the present tense.

Forms of can used in present tense –

We can use the modal auxiliary verb “can” in both affirmative and negative present tense sentence. Let us go through two forms of “can” in present tense.

Serial NumberType of SentencePersonForm
1Affirmative Present TenseFirst Person Singular Numbercan
2Affirmative Present TenseFirst Person Plural Numbercan
3Affirmative Present TenseSecond Person Singular Numbercan
4Affirmative Present TenseSecond Person Plural Numbercan
5Affirmative Present TenseThird Person Singular Numbercan
6Affirmative Present TenseThird Person Plural Numbercan
7Negative Present TenseFirst Person Singular Numbercannot / can’t
8Negative Present TenseFirst Person Plural Numbercannot / can’t
9Negative Present TenseSecond Person Singular Numbercannot / can’t
10Negative Present TenseSecond Person Plural Numbercannot / can’t
11Negative Present TenseThird Person Singular Numbercannot / can’t
12Negative Present TenseThird Person Plural Numbercannot / can’t
Forms of ‘can’ used in present tense

Example – I can swim better than any of my friends, but only in the pond in my village.

Explanation –

The modal auxiliary verb ‘can’ is used to show ‘possible ability or the determination of the speaker in the present mode of tense.

How can is used in present tense?

We use the modal auxiliary verb “can” in three types of sentences in the present tense. We will now check the formation of three types of sentences.

Serial NumberType of SentenceExample
1Affirmative Present Tense Sentence with “Can”I am sure that I can crack the interview today.
2Negative Present Tense Sentence with “Can”I am sure that I cannot crack the interview.
3Interrogative  Present Tense Sentence with “Can”Can I crack the interview today?
Three Types of Sentences with Modal Auxiliary Verb ‘Modal’

Explanation –

In the first two examples, the modal auxiliary verb “can” has been placed just after the subject, and in the third example, the modal auxiliary verb “can” has been placed at the beginning of the sentence while the subject comes just after the modal auxiliary verb.

When can is used in present tense?

The modal auxiliary verb “can” is used in the present tense to show some particular situations. A list of situations is given below.

  1. To show “ability”
  2. To show “inability”
  3. To ask for “permission”
  4. To give “permission”
  5. To deny any “permission”
  6. To show “open possibility”
  7. To do “inquiry”
  8. To show “refusal”

Example – You cannot come to visit my private chamber without any prior intimation.

Explanation –

The modal verb “can” is in use to show “denial of permission” in this negative present tense. We should mark the use of the base form or root form of the verb “come” is in use to show the present mode of tense.

Why can is used in present tense?

Every type of modal verb has its own set of uses. The modal verb “can” has its own specific below-listed reasons.

The word “can” is mainly used along with the root form of the main verb in a present-tense sentence .

Example – Can I come in to submit my curriculum vitae for the ongoing interview?

Explanation –

The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use to “ask permission” from the addressed person.

Formula and structure of can used in present tense –

We can divide present tense sentences with the modal auxiliary verb “can” in three different structures. Let us look at them.

Serial  NumberType of Sentence with Modal Auxiliary Verb “can”Structure
1Affirmative Present TenseSubject + can + present form of main verb + remaining words + full stop mark
2Negative Present TenseSubject + can + not + present form of main verb + remaining words + full stop mark
3Interrogative Present TenseCan + subject + present form of main verb + remaining words + question mark
Formula and Structure of ‘can’ used in Present Tense

Example – I can speak three Indian languages along with Indian sign language.

Explanation –

In this affirmative present-tense sentence, the speaker is showing his or her ability to speak both verbal and non-verbal language with the help of modal auxiliary verb “can”.

Examples of can used in present tense –

Examples and explanations of present tense sentences with “can” will make your knowledge easy and concrete.

Examples of “can” in the present tense are discussed below.

 Serial NumberExampleExplanation
1.No matter how hard the door has been stuck, I can open it at once.The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “open” to show the “ability” of the speaker in an affirmative present tense sentence.
2.I have lost my key to the main door and I cannot enter my house.The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “enter” to show the “inability” of the speaker in the negative present tense sentence.
3.I can cook a meal in half an hour, but those are not worth eating.The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “cook” to show “ability” of the speaker in affirmative present tense sentence.
4.Can you come to my place to deliver the ordered dress item?The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “come” to ask for “permission” in the interrogative present tense sentence.
5.Can we sit and discuss this problematic situation?The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “sit” to ask for “permission” in the interrogative present tense sentence.
6.Pijush can play excellent volleyball with exceptional skills.The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “play” to show the “ability” of Pijush in the affirmative present tense sentence.
7.You cannot speak impolitely with your colleagues in your workplace.The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “speak” to show the “inability” of the addressed person in the negative present tense sentence.
8.Renu can sing any romantic song in a sad mood.The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “sing” to show the “ability” of Renu in the affirmative present tense sentence.
9.Can Mina draw a picture of a whirling storm?The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “draw” to do “inquiry” in the interrogative present tense sentence.
10.I can come to you in a minute, but I need a plane to do so.The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “come” to show the “ability” of the speaker in the affirmative present tense sentence.
11.You can go to meet your cousin’s brothers.The modal auxiliary verb “can” is in use along with the present tense form of the verb “go” to show the “ability” of the addressed person in an affirmative present tense sentence.
Eleven Examples of Present Tense Sentence with the Modal Auxiliary Verb ‘Can’

Conclusion –

We must note the point that the traditional negative form of the modal auxiliary verb “can” is “cannot”. We must write “cannot” as a single entity and must not write with a gap in between. Normally, we use “can’t” as the negative form of “can” in our spoken English. 

Arpita Bose Roy

Hey! I am Arpita Bose Roy. My qualifications are M.A. in English with  B. Ed. in both general education and special education. I have 2 years of experience as a "language analyst" at IIT Kharagpur and 4 years of experience as an "Academic Content Developer" at IIT Kharagpur. Currently, I am working as an academic writer at Lambdageeks. Let's connect through LinkedIn-https://www.linkedin.com/mwlite/in/arpita-bose-roy-0aa32553

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