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: 1125


Language level: 



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


LordDreamer's picture

Could you explain me one thing, please? In my native language it's quite common to speak monotonously, but that's not a rule actually. And in the dialogue it is said "You need to get 'up and down' movement in your voice" I don't really understand how's that. Thanks!

28 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture

Hi LordDreamer,
That's a good question. The 'up and down movement in your voice' that is described in the explanation is called 'intonation' and it's really important when you're speaking English. First of all read this blog post all about intonation:  It was written by a British Council teacher in Bangladesh and it explains it very well. Also this article on our TeachingEnglish website explains intonation: Read the information on those two websites and then come back and ask if you have more questions. I hope that will help you. 
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

25 users have voted.
princess2001's picture

No, not at all. We celebrate two big festivals a year in our country which feature wearing new costumes, decorating ourselves, making delicious food, wishing each other, having fun with relatives. these festivals are anxiously awaited the whole year.

28 users have voted.
Lillian's picture

Hi, I don't quite understand "would you mind...." this type of question.
For example, if someone asked: "Would you mind lending me the book?" I'd love to lend the book to that person, shall I say:"Yes, of course." or "Not at all"?
I mean, when I say yes, does it mean "yes, I mind" or "no, I don't mind"?
It is so confusing to me...
Thanks in advance for answering my question!

34 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture

Hi Lillian. This is quite confusing but let me try to explain it. If somebody asks Would you mind doing XYZ for me? here are some possible answers.

  • No, not at all. (= I don't mind. This is agreeing to the request.)
  • Sorry, / Actually, I'm a bit busy now. (= not agreeing to the request. It's normal to say why - give some excuse.)

If you say Yes, of course, it may be unclear what you mean. Technically, it would mean Of course I mind but it would be strange because normally we wouldn't refuse a request that strongly. 

Does that help?

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

37 users have voted.
DROPE's picture

of course! , I think that is the best way to learn about other cultures.
In Ecuador we have typical celebrations like "MAMÁ NEGRA", that is a traditional festival in the city of Latacunga, in homage to different towns, The celebration features parades, It is a parade of popular characters, military, civil, ecclesiastical and mythical that give luster to the procession, each of these characters are chosen for their performance and work performed each year..

55 users have voted.
pierina'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.

55 users have voted.
Eseban's picture

I would like enjoy about another culture.
I'm from Ecuador , we celebrate Day of the Dead with a typical food of the country.

50 users have voted.
stephania1799's picture

I would like to enjoy a different culture.
In my country we celebrate with costumes, doing puppets, eating food and have fun with the family

51 users have voted.
nandosc9's picture

I really would like, I think that is the best way to learn about other cultures because, you don't only listen, you participate. You're parte of the celebation, something that also can be fun.
I'm from Ecuador, here we have typical celebrations like "The Festival of Fruits and Flowers", that is a traditional festival in the city of Ambato, in homage to the earth. The celebration features parades, performances, fireworks and beauty contests.

55 users have voted.
mike95rob's picture

I love to celebrate a different culture to mineand in my country it has lost a lot of the decelerations of our culture but there are cultures that still do

55 users have voted.
Angielu's picture

Yes, of course. I would like to celebrate Christmas in other country like EE.UU. In my country, people celebrate by eating turkey or pig.

51 users have voted.
fernanda2000's picture

I would like to know the Chinese culture because it is so different from my country Ecuador...
In my country many people celebrate The New Year

52 users have voted.
LinaMalina's picture

I am positive to any holiday any country. In our side as the new year many people celebrate the old new year. Traditions how to celebrate this holiday is not. In my opinion

63 users have voted.
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 .

142 users have voted.