Can, could and would for invitations, offers, requests and permission

Can, could and would for invitations, offers, requests and permission


As you watch the video, look at the examples of can, could and would for offers, invitations, requests and permission. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, these structures correctly.


Sophie's in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year. At home it’s cold and Oliver is making soup.

We use the modal verbs can, could and would to offer to do things for people or to invite them to do something. We also use them to make requests or ask permission to do something.

What are modal verbs?

They are a type of auxiliary verb we use with other verbs to add more meaning to the verb. After modal verbs we use the infinitive form without to.

Modals are not used with the auxiliary verb do; to form the negative, we add not after the modal. To ask questions, we put the modal in front of the subject.

Hey, you couldn't pass me that plate, could you?        
Can I have a taste?    

Modals do not change in the third person singular form (he/she/it) in the present simple.

Sophie can send photos.

Modals seem quite easy to use. What do we use them for?

We use them for lots of different things, and the same modal verbs can have several different uses. Today we are just going to look at offers, invitations, requests and permission.

Right, fire away! I mean, you can fire away if you like.

Oh, you’re giving me permission. Thank you. We use would + like  a lot for offers. It’s very useful for different situations.

Would you like to come to our house for dinner?
Would you like some cake?
Would you like to celebrate Chinese New Year with us?

For more informal invitations you can use can + get. Get means buy in this context.

 Can I get you a drink? 

We also use  would  and  can  for offering to help someone.

Would you like some help?
Can I help you?
Can I give you a hand with that?

That sounds very strange, Can I give you a hand?.

It just means Can I help you?.

We also use modals for asking for something (making a request or asking permission).

Can you do me a favour? (more informal)
Could you say thanks to your mum for me? (more polite)
I’ve finished my homework. Can I go now? (more informal)
Could I speak to Amy, please? (more polite)

What’s the answer? Yes, you can. / No, you can’t.?

Not normally. Usually the positive answer is:

Yes, sure. / Yes, of course. / Certainly.

We usually avoid a direct “No” in the negative answer. We’d say something like:

Well, I’m not sure. / Tomorrow night’s a bit difficult. / Um, actually, she’s not here at the moment.

Ah, so you need to listen carefully to see if the answer is yes or no.

Absolutely. We don’t like saying no in English.

We also like to use longer structures in more formal situations:

Do you think you could do me a favour?           
Would you mind closing the window, please?
Could you tell me how to get to the town centre, please?

Yes, but isn’t the pronunciation important too?

Ah, you mean the intonation? Yes, that’s very important, I’m glad you mentioned that. It can make all the difference between sounding polite and rude. It’s very important to get it right if you want a stranger to do something for you. You need to get 'up and down' movement in your voice.

Right. One more thing, do you think you could  help me with my homework now? It would only take about an hour.

Um, well, actually …


Total votes: 634

Would you like to join in celebrations from a different culture to yours? Could you tell us about a typical celebration in your country?


Amera's picture

I like the way that explain the grammar it's easy to understand . it's interesting .
I'm wejdan and I'm using amera account .

6 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture

Hi lojiin1 and duonglinhha3333. 'Do me a favour' is a common phrase, especially when friends are speaking to each other. 'A favour' is some small action to help somebody. So if you want to ask a friend to help you, you can say 'Can you do me a favour?'. And if your friend can help, he or she will say 'Sure!'. Does that explanation help?
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

5 users have voted.
aneem's picture

may you help please:( this grammar is B1,right? where can i find A1 grammar lessons?
and is it okay if I start with B1 grammars?
I started with A to Z grammar? Is it okay?

44 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture

Hi aneem,
In the grammar videos section, just have a look at the grammar points in each video and decide which ones are most useful to you at the moment. It doesn't really matter what the level is, it's more important that you choose the grammar points that you are studying at school or that you are interested in. Is that clear? You can find out more about the level system we use here: 
Let us know if you have any more questions. 
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

47 users have voted.
Nurlan A's picture

Yes,of course.I really would like to celebrate NewYear in other countries:especially in Chine and America.
People celebrate The New Year very well in my country.People in my country like the NewYear much.

58 users have voted.
AnaB's picture

Yes, I would like to go somewhere. I'm form Macedonia, but I live in Montenegro. Macedoninan culture and the culture of Montenegro are simmular. There's some diffrents between theese two cultures. I dicated to write about my country Macedonia, because I miss her so much. :)
We celebrate Joke Day, Valentine, Women's Day, Easter, New Year, Christmas.... and a lot other holidays. :)

89 users have voted.
Jo - Coordinator's picture

Hi AnaB,
Thanks a lot for all your fantastic comments and for telling us about Macedonia. I have to tell you that in this case I have cut out part of your comment because it looked like it was copied from another website. In our House Rules we say:

Do not share content that is not yours - Only add content that is your original work. Do not copy ideas or information without saying where it comes from.

I'm sorry if I have edited something that is yours, but we have to be very careful about this rule. Please remember in the future.

We still want to hear about Macedonia though! Can you tell us about your experience of Macedonian traditions?

Best wishes,


(LearnEnglish Teens team)

80 users have voted.