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Sentence Patterns using "Can you...?"

This question can be used in a few different ways.

Can + subject + verb....?

We can use it to ask about abilities, talents, and skills.
  • Can you swim?
  • Can you play the piano?
  • Can she speak English?
We often use adverbs or comparative adjectives when we are asking about abilities, talents, and skills. The most commonly used adverb is the word "well". "Well" is the irregular adverb form of the word "good".
  • Can you sing well?
  • Can she cook well?
  • Can she speak English fluently?
  • Can you eat more than me?
  • Can the car go faster than a train?
We also use "can" to ask about possibilities.
  • Can you come to my party?
  • Can he meet us later?
  • Can you help me with this report?
  • Can you give me a hand?
  • Can you come to the party?
  • Can we reschedule this meeting for next week?
We also use "can" to ask for permission. This is similar to asking about possibilities.
  • Can I have this?
  • Can I go to the bathroom?
  • Can I call you back later?
  • Can I borrow your car?
We can also use this question to offer help in some cases.
  • Can I help you?
  • Can I give you some advice?
Bonus Tips and Points

1. Many grammar books will tell you that the proper way to ask for permission is to use "May I...?". This is true, but these days most people use both "May I..." and "Can I.." when asking for permission. Actually, most people consider "May I..." to be more formal and polite.
  • May I go to the bathroom? = Can I go to the bathroom?
  • May I see that? = Can I see that?
  • May I borrow $5? = Can I borrow $5?
2. It is also possible to ask permission for a third person.
  • Can Mary borrow your pen?
  • Can Bill come to the party too?
  • Can Mark also come with us?
Real-World English Conversations

A) Can you dance well?
B) I can dance a little bit, but I can't say that I can dance well.

A) Can you come to work a little early tomorrow to go over our report before we submit it?
B) Sure. No problem, boss.

A) Can I come to your party?
B) No. I don't like you.

A) Can chickens fly?
B) No, chickens cannot fly.

A) Can you think of her name?
B) No, I can't think of her name. It will come to me later.

A) Can your boyfriend cook?
B) Yes. Actually, he is better at cooking than I am.

A) Can Yanni speak English?
B) Yes, she is really good at English. She can speak it almost fluently.

A) Can we leave now?
B) Not yet, but soon.
A) When?
B) In about 10 minutes.

Study these free English lessons to improve your English speaking. If you learn these common sentence patterns well, then your English speaking will improve greatly and you will be able to have fluent conversations in English in the near future! Study the lessons well, practice using the sentences and questions at home and in real life, and make sure to come back to review the material so you do not forget. If you do these three things, then you will be speaking English like a native English speaker in no time!

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