Spanish Language Blog

Spanish Lesson Beginner 33 The modal verb Can in Spanish: El verbo Poder Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Learning, Spanish Grammar, Spanish Vocabulary, Videos

In this Spanish video lesson we are going to look at another very useful Spanish verb: El verbo “Poder”.

Poder is the modal verb “Can” in Spanish. This is a Spanish verb that we use all the time in regular, everyday conversation and therefore merits attention and practice. We will learn how to conjugate “el verbo Poder” for all persons and some examples of Poder.

As I mentioned, Poder is a “Modal Verb”. Modal verbs are different to regular verbs and are used in an auxiliary way to indicate modality: likelihood, ability, permission, or obligation. Spanish modal verbs work differently to regular Spanish verbs in that another verb follows them in its base form.

The same is true in English with English modal verbs. For example, with “I can swim” (puedo nadar) we have the verb “Can” immediately followed by the verb “Swim” in its base form. In English the verb Can is a very easy verb to conjugate as it is the same for all persons, but in Spanish el verbo Poder changes a lot according to the person. Don’t forget, though, that the second verb always stays in its base form – you don’t have to conjugate both verbs.

So, first let´s see how to conjugate el verbo Poder (Can) for all persons:

• (Yo) Puedo: I can
• (Tú) Puedes: You can (friendly)
• (Usted) Puede: You can (formal)
• (Él/ella) Puede: He/She can
• (Nosotros/as) Podemos: We can
• (Vosotros/as) Podéis: You can (group/friendly)
• (Ustedes) Pueden: You can (group/formal)
• (Ellos/as) Pueden: They can

Next, let´s see some examples using the Spanish verb Poder (Can) and some expressions of obligation using the other modal verbs that we have already looked at in this course: Tener que and Deber:

• ¿Quieres ir al cine esta noche?: Would you like to go to the cinema this evening? (friendly)
• No puedo porque tengo que estudiar: I can´t because I have to study
• No, es que tengo que estudiar: No, I have to study

• ¿Queréis comer en un restaurante con nosotros? Would you like to have lunch in a restaurant with us? (group/friendly)
• No podemos porque debemos limpiar la casa: We can´t because we must clean the house
• No, es que debemos limpiar la casa: No, we must clean the house

• ¿Quiere jugar al tenis conmigo mañana?: Would you like to play tennis with me tomorrow? (formal)
• No puedo porque tengo que trabajar: I can´t because I have to work
• No, es que tengo que trabajar. No, I have to work

• ¿Queréis hablar con él?: Would you like to speak to him? (group/friendly)
• No podemos porque tenemos que ir a casa: We can´t because we have to go home
• No, es que tenemos que ir a casa: No, we have to go home

• ¿Quieres viajar a Madrid este verano?: Would you like to travel to Madrid this summer? (friendly)
• No puedo porque no tengo dinero: I can´t because I haven´t got any money
• No, es que no tengo dinero: No, I haven´t got any money

• ¿Quiere venir conmigo?: Would you like to come with me? (formal)
• No puedo porque debo trabajar: I can´t because I must work
• No, es que debo trabajar: No, I must work

That’s all for today on el verbo Poder.

We are up to lesson 33 in our beginner Spanish course and by now you will have built up a good repertoire of Spanish verbs, phrases and vocabulary. It is important to keep practicing and reviewing everything you have learned. Our first lesson seems a long time ago now and it is easy to forget some of the earlier topics as we gather steadily more and more advanced and complex information. I highly recommend that you go back every now and then to review and practice earlier lessons in the course.

Try to combine all of the structures and vocabulary we have learned in lots of practice sentences. It is vital to actually use what you have learned and to use it on a regular basis, otherwise things can very quickly be forgotten and you start making basic errors and developing bad habits.

Don’t forget also that I am posting intermediate and advanced level Spanish courses here on the Transparent Language Spanish Blog and if you feel confident and well practiced with your beginner level Spanish then you might want to push on with some more advanced level topics.

I wish you a lovely day and look forward to seeing you next time with more Spanish.


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About the Author: Laura & Adam

Laura & Adam have been blogging and creating online Spanish courses for Transparent Language since 2010. Laura is from Bilbao in northern Spain and Adam is from Devon in the south of England. They lived together in Spain for over 10 years, where their 2 daughters were born, and now they live in Scotland. Both Laura & Adam qualified as foreign language teachers in 2004 and since have been teaching Spanish in Spain, the UK, and online.


  1. Mohammed:

    Hola Laura:

    No entiendo concepto de es que. Quiero saber su explicacion. Cuando puedo usarlo y en qué situation. También el lección 27 y 32 son falta en su blog.Por favor deme esos metirial de lección en mi correo o dame un link de lección 27 y 32.

    En espera de su respuesta.Gracias!!!


  2. joan storer:

    I have just found your blog although you are on lesson 33. I have enjoyed it and understood most of it but I am not sure about using es que example =no, es que no tengo dinero. why could i not just say no,no tengo dinero . I am goiong to go back and read your earlier blogs. Thank you very much for your help. It is evening now so I hope you have a good day tomorrow. joan

    • Laura:

      @joan storer ¡Hola Joan!
      Thank you very much for your comments. I am glad you are enjoying my Spanish online lessons. Regarding your question about “es que” in this it case means something similar to “because”. So you could translate it as “No, because I have no money”.
      I hope this helps.
      Kind regards,