We had a question about can and could from a viewer. Come hang out with us and learn how we use the verbs these verbs in English. We answer questions and share a news update about our live English lessons. Oh and we also meet Ronald Grump – a puppet President
Check these links for our video lessons on can and could.
How to say Can and Can’t in British and American English
How to use Can, Could and May to ask for permission
Get what you want in English
Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s lesson. I’m Vicki.
And I’m Jay. And here’s a big shout out to all our new subscribers. It’s great to have you with us.
We’re going to have a Q&A this week – questions and answers.
Thank you to everyone who has been sending us questions.
What’s the first one?
OK this comes from Mai Nguyen and she asks about the difference between ‘can’ and ‘could’. Can you call me back later? Could you call me back later? How to use can or could?
So how do we use can and could? Well in Mai’s example they mean the same thing. Can you call me back? Could you call me back? Same meaning but ‘could’ is just a little bit more formal and polite.
These structures are very, very common. We often use them when we’re making requests.
Yes, in lots of other languages you might say ‘Do it’ where in English we’ll say ‘Can you do it?’ or ‘Could you do it?’ It’s like we want to pretend the other person has a choice, even if they don’t.
Let’s look at another example.
Yeah, this is what happened when I took Jay to the dentist.
Can I help you?
Yes, can I make an appointment with the dentist?
I’m afraid he’s out at the moment.
Oh good! Can you tell me when he’ll be out again?
We heard three examples there. Kathy asked ‘Can I help you?’
And I asked ‘Can I make an appointment?’ And then ‘Can you tell me when he’ll be out again.’
He hates going to the dentist!
But I could also say ‘Could I make an appointment?’ and ‘Could you tell me…?’ and that would mean the same thing.
Yes, because they were both requests. ‘Could you’ would be a little more polite but there’s hardly any difference. There is a situation where ‘can’ and ‘could’ are different though.
When we’re talking about abilities – skills we have or had. For example, when I lived in Japan, I could speak a little Japanese. Not a lot, but enough to get by.
But you can’t speak Japanese any more.
No, that’s right. I could speak it in the past, but I can’t now. I was a long time ago and I’ve forgotten it.
So ‘could’ is the past form of ‘can’ there.
That’s right. What about you? Can you think of something you could do in the past that you can’t do now? Write and tell us in the comments below.
I can think of something.
Well, in the past I could do 30 push-ups. Now I can only do 10.
Great example. And I’ve got another one. Why don’t you tell them about your hand?
Oh yes. I had a problem with one of my fingers. I couldn’t move it, so I went to the doctor and they said they’d operate on it.
Let’s show everyone what you said.
Yes, doctor. Will I be able to play the piano after the operation?
Why, of course.
That’s great because I never could before.
OK, let’s have another question.
Well a lot of people are asking about our live lessons on YouTube. They want to know when they’re going to start.
And the answer is… We don’t know!
We’re still practicing and we’re getting closer.
Yes, we had a rehearsal today. Here are a few clips.
Hey Vicki. What I forgot to do was mute your, your speaker. Your monitor which is in front of you. There is a controller on the little table in front of you if you want to pick that up, that’ll be helpful. The little black table right in front of you.
Yes well actually this is a test for the live class. I’m… This is only a test! Hey, come on everybody. It’s going to start. So if you’re here could you tell us in the chat where you’re from. Well, that’s true. But you know it took… Who did that?
What did you learn from today’s rehearsal Jay?
We still have some technical things to work out. What about you?
I learnt an exciting thing about live classes is the chat. People watching the class can all chat to one another while the class is going on. That’s very cool.
We hope to start the classes next month.
Yes, subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already and we’ll email you the schedule. I’ll put a link in the details below. Another question?
Ah yeah. This one is a comment from John. He says, ‘The book ‘Fix It’ is good and useful for me. Thank you.’
Oh that’s great to hear. I wrote Fix it and it’s a checklist that helps you correct common English mistakes. It’s available free on our website at Simple English Videos dot com.
If you want a copy, sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you a link to download it for free.
I’ll put a link to that below as well.
Now here’s another request.
It’s from John in Thailand. Now I don’t know if this is the same John or not but he says can you do more video that has Ronald Grump and Carter the dog.
So can we do more videos with Carter and Ronald Grump.
We should explain that Carter is our dog and we sometimes make videos about him.
I can put a link to some here.
Yeah, and Ronald Grump is a puppet. He’s running for president.
Most people know my name. My name is Ronald Grump and err… I’m here because I’m going to be the first puppet American to be President of the United States.
Well, it’s election season in America so I think we should have another Ronald Grump video.
It’s a great idea. John, thank you for that. Let’s say goodbye Jay and Ronald Grump can play us out.
Ladies and gentlemen. Please welcome the next President of the United States, Ronald Grump.
If I’m elected President of the United States, I, Ronald Grump, will make you a preposition.
I’ve loved English. All the words. You’ve got the nouns, you’ve got the adverbs, you’ve got the adjectives, you’ve got clauses. Let me tell you something. My English will be the best English.
Some people, let’s be honest, they’re losers. Their adjectives are losers. When they send us their adjectives, they’re not sending us their best. If I am elected, we will have no more bad adjectives. If you pick Ronald Grump to represent your grammar, we will make America’s adjectives great again.
Listen, listen. I’m from here. I’m a New Yorker through and through. But let me just tell you something. Here’s the thing. The situation with these foreign languages now, it’s unbelievable. It’s out of control. I was here when foreign languages came in and they celebrated when we lost infinitives. They split our infinitives, our infinitives right here, in our own country, and they were completely split. And what did the foreign grammars do? They were dancing in the streets. I saw it with my own eyes. It was awful. Unbelievable. There will be no more foreign grammars until we figure out what the heck is going on.
Conjunctions, let me tell you. You have a dependent clause over here. You have a subordinate clause over there. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. There’s no unity. America’s not great any more. We’re gonna make America great. This is how we’re gonna do it. Are you ready? I am gonna build a conjunction. A conjunction between the clauses. It’s gonna be the biggest, the best. It’s gonna be a beautiful conjunction. It’s gonna be one of the most beautiful conjunctions you’ve ever seen. And what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna make the clauses pay for it.
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