English Review of Modal Verbs "can" and "should"

Overview

This review focuses on the modal verbs "can" and "should." Other modal verbs will be covered in a later course.

SHOULD COULD WOULD DID

The modal verbs “can” is used to talk about ability, ask for or give permission, or to make polite requests. The subjunctive form of “can” is “could,” which is used when wanting to be extra polite when making requests or to discuss something that is possible.

Examples:
Harold can read very fast.  (ability)
Sara, you can borrow my car if you like.  (permission)
Can I have a latte, please?  (polite request)
Could I ask you for a favor?  (very polite request)
We could go to the Italian restaurant, or we could get sushi.  (possibility)

“Should” is used to give advice, make recommendations, and discuss obligation, probability, and expectation. Here are some examples of each:

You should eat healthier food.  (advice)
You should try out the new Thai restaurant.  (recommendation)
I should study for the test.  (obligation)
The bus should be leaving soon.  (expectation)
Mary should be fine with chocolate ice cream.  (probability) 

“Should” is also a subjunctive verb, and should not be interpreted as stating a fact.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
Writing:
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
Reading:
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Listening:
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.