Session 2

Could you survive in an extreme situation? People who live in the desert are able to deal with extremely difficult living conditions. Some parts of Russia see temperatures fall to -50C, but the people who live there manage to cope. We're talking about modal verbs of ability in this session. Can you join us?

Sessions in this unit

Session 2 score

0 / 13

  • 0 / 6
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 7
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 0
    Activity 3

Activity 2

Getting the form right

Can you survive in extreme cold?

Well, the people in Yakutia in Russia can. They manage to survive in temperatures as low as -70C!

Hopefully this activity won't be as much of a challenge for you. Read the grammar explanation about the forms of cancouldbe able to and manage to. Then see if you can get all the quiz questions correct!

Read the text and complete the activity

Can, could, manage to, be able to: Form

After can/can't and could/couldn't we use the infinitive without to. We also use the same form for all persons: I, you, he, she, it, we, they. After be able to we use the infinitive without to as well, but the form of be changes: am/are/is able to for the present and was/were able to for the past.


In Yakutia, the people can speak both Yakut and Russian.
They are able to survive in temperatures of -70C.


They can’t grow vegetables in winter, so they eat a lot of meat and fish.
Most people aren’t able to travel in winter because of the freezing weather.


In questions with can, could and be able to, we change the word order. We don’t use do/does. Can, could or the verb be come before the subject or subject pronoun.

How can the people survive in temperatures of -70C?
Why aren’t they able to travel in winter?
Could they leave the area by April?

Take note: 'be able to' with infinitives and present perfect

Can has no infinitive form or present perfect form. So in some sentences, we have to use be able to.

I’d like to be able to speak Russian. (infinitive)
We haven’t been able to contact them by phone yet. (present perfect)

Take note: form of 'manage to'

Manage to is a regular verb in the positive form. But in the negative form we say can’t manage to in the present and couldn’t or didn’t manage to in the past. We also use did for questions.

I can’t manage to eat all that!
They couldn’t/didn’t manage to finish the race.
Did you really manage to swim across the Channel?

To do

Time to check you've got the form right - try this multiple choice quiz!

Finding the right forms

7 Questions

Choose the correct form to complete each phrase

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y


Can you study for a bit longer? We promise it will help if you do! Coming next is 6 Minute Grammar. In the programme, Neil, Catherine and Mike help you understand how to talk about ability. Can you stay to listen? Yes, you can!

Session Grammar

  • After can/can't and could/couldn't we don't use 'to' with the infinitive:

    He can speak with the local people in their language.
    They can't really understand each other, though.

    They could communicate basic ideas.
    He couldn't study the language long enough to learn to write it.

    Can/can't and could/couldn't have the same form for all persons, but are able to changes: am/are/is able to in the present and was/were able to in the past.

    In questions with can and could the modal verb moves before the subject.

    You can speak the Yakut language.
    Can you speak Yakut?

    With manage to you make the question form with did or could. You make the negative with didn't or couldn't.

    Did you manage to eat the food? I didn't manage to eat any of it!
    Could you manage the journey? I couldn't manage it - the journey was too tough!