can modal verb - definition in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online (US)

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English definition of “can”

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can

modal verb uk   us   strong /kæn/ weak /kən/

can modal verb (ABILITY)

A1 to be able to: Can you drive? She can speak four languages. Can you read that sign from this distance? The doctors are doing all that they can, but she's still not breathing properly. Do the best you can - I realize the circumstances are not ideal. If the party is awful, we can always leave (= that would be one possible solution to our problem). "She's really furious about it." "Can you blame her (= I'm not surprised)?"can do US informal used to say that you can and will do something: "Will you mail this letter for me, please?" "Can do." "I need you to pick up the kids today." "Sorry, no can do (= no I can't)."
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can modal verb (PERMISSION)

A1 to be allowed to: Can I use your bike, John? You can park over there. You can have a piece of cake after you've eaten your vegetables! informal sometimes used to tell someone angrily to do something: If you carry on being horrible to your sister, Sophie, you can just go to bed!
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can modal verb (REQUEST)

A1 used to request something: If you see Brett, can you tell him I'm in town next weekend? Can you make a little less noise, please? I'm trying to work.
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can modal verb (POSSIBILITY)

A2 used to express possibility: You can get stamps from the local newsagents. You can get very nasty skin diseases from bathing in dirty water. Smoking can cause cancer. Noise can be quite a problem when you're living in a flat. He can be really annoying at times (= he is sometimes very annoying).
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can modal verb (OFFER)

A1 used in polite offers of help: Can I help you with those bags? I'm afraid Ms Ferguson has already left the office. Can I be of any help?
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(Definition of can modal verb from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
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