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GRAMMAR: Expressing ability

Expressing ability

Look at the three sentences below and complete the gaps with can or can’t.

  1. Superman __________ fly
  2. Spiderman __________ fly
  3. Dogs __________ speak.
  4. Fish __________ talk


Exercise 1

Complete the gaps with can or can’t / cannot followed by the verb in brackets


  1. I Italian, I learned it when I was in Rome. (speak)
  2. I to the party. I am very busy. (come)
  3. We you. The music is too loud. (hear)
  4. Where are my keys? I them. (find) 
  5. We tomorrow if you want. (meet)
  6. you me a cup of tea, please? (make)
  7. He . His leg hurts so much. (jump)

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Exercise 2

Tick the boxes with information about you. Then, write sentences about what you can or can’t do. Show them to your teacher, who will give you feedback.

Example: Draw - NO. I can’t draw

Can you ...? YES NO
play tennis
speak French

Bonus Task 1

Need more practice? Click the links below to do more exercises to practice the use of CAN and CAN’T to express ability:

Bonus Task 2. Using be able to + infinitive

f you find the use of can/can’t easy, try and start using be able to+infinitive. Study this chart.

Be able to



Rewrite these sentences using be able to + infinitive.

  1. Can you swim? Yes, I can
  2. I can’t read music
  3. They can play the piano
  4. She can dive
  5. You can speak French but I can’t
  6. Can you dance? Yes, I can


  1. Are you able to swim? Yes, I am
  2. I am not able to read music
  3. They are not able to play the piano
  4. She is able to drive
  5. She is able to speak French but I am not
  6. Are you able to dance? Yes, I am