Good and taboo can for ability questions


Fun can/ can't practice with real small talk questions using that language, and a little cultural training

By: Alex Case
Level: All Levels
Topic: General
Grammar Topic: Modals

Pick one question each from the list on the next page and read it out. Together decide which of those questions is the easiest most normal question to answer for people like you, then the person who was asked that question should answer it. Then do the same with two more questions. You can choose the questions as quickly or slowly as you like each time, but the person who chooses first gets first pick each time.

Useful phrases for discussing which question is best

“I think my question is more common/ easier to answer/ better with people who you don’t know, because…”

“I think that your question is strange/ not suitable to ask me/ too personal/ taboo because…”

Ask about any questions which you don’t understand, you are not sure how to answer, you are not sure about the suitability of, etc.  

Play the same game, but making up your own can/ can’t questions with question stems like these:

  • Can you cook…?
  • Can you do…?
  • Can you fix/ repair/ mend…?
  • Can you play…?
  • Can you remember…?
  • Can you speak…?
  • Can you tell the difference between… and…?
  • Can you use…?
  • Can you…?
  • Can your…?
  • Can’t you…?
  • How many… can you…?
  • How much… can you…?
  • I can… I bet you can’t.
  • I can’t… I bet you can.
  • I can… Can you?
  • I can’t… Can you?
  • What is the… thing that you can…?


Good and bad can/ can’t questions to choose from

  • Can you boil an egg?
  • Can you click your fingers?
  • Can you cook Thai food?
  • Can you delete your browser history/ your search history?
  • Can you do an impression of Donald Trump/ Donald Duck/…?
  • Can you eat beef/ pork?
  • Can you eat sushi?
  • Can you eat wheat/ peanuts/ soya/ gluten/…?
  • Can you fix a bicycle puncture?
  • Can you juggle?
  • Can you lift this table?
  • Can you play any musical instruments?
  • Can you read without those glasses?
  • Can you remember all the words of your country’s national anthem?
  • Can you remember much maths from school?
  • Can you remember my name?
  • Can you remember your mother’s maiden name?
  • Can you stop yourself from buying gelato if you see a gelato shop?
  • Can you see your toes?
  • Can you skip?/ Can you jump rope?
  • Can you speak any other languages?
  • Can you tell the difference between British and American English (just by listening to their accents)?
  • Can you tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese (just from their faces)?
  • Can you tie up your own shoe laces?
  • Can you touch your toes?
  • Can you use chopsticks?
  • Can you whistle?
  • Can your mother remember your birth?
  • Can your pet do any tricks?
  • Can’t you breathe more quietly?
  • Have you ever drunk so much that you can’t remember what happened? What is the last thing that you can remember on that day?
  • How many cookies can you eat in one day?
  • How many languages can you speak?
  • How much alcohol can you drink without vomiting?
  • How much can you see without your glasses/ your contact lenses?
  • How well can you play chess?
  • I can put one foot behind my head. I bet you can’t.
  • I can touch the end of my nose with my tongue. Can you?
  • What is the first thing that you can remember?
  • What is the most difficult song that you can sing?
  • What is the most difficult tune that you can play?

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