Online French grammar 

 The verb pouvoir

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 Modal auxiliary verbs: 1. Pouvoir.

Modal auxiliaries alo known as modal verbs, are functional verbs that preceed other verbs in order to frame them as a possibility, an impossibility, an obligation, a requirement, a probability or a wish.
   Traditional French grammars do not generally use the category of modal verbs; but by assimilation with English and in attempt to use a common framework of grammatical terms that can be used across the spectrum of languages, the expression "verbes modaux" is increasingly used in French grammar

Pouvoir : meaning

The verb pouvoir corresponds to the English modal verbs can or be able to.  It expresses ability or possibility, or sometimes  permission or authorisation.
In its most basic meaning, Je peux means I can.
Used In its conditional tense, Je pourrais means I might
Also note the idiomatic expression Il se peut que, which means It is possible that...

Full conjugation: Pouvoir

Table 1
Tenses - indicative

1st Singular. je peux or je puis je pourrai je pouvais
2nd Singular tu peux tu pourras tu pouvais
3rd Singular il peut il pourra il pouvait
1st plural nous pouvons nous pourrons nous pouvions
2nd plural vous pouvez vous pourrez vous pouviez
3rd plural ils peuvent ils pourront ils pouvaient

Table 2
Tenses - indicative

Preterite (simple past)
1st Singular. je pus j'ai pu j'avais pu
2nd Singular tu pus tu as pu tu avais pu
3rd Singular il put il a pu il avait pu
1st plural nous pûmes nous avons pu nous avions pu
2nd plural vous pûtes vous avez pu vous aviez pu
3rd plural ils purent ils ont pu ils avaient pu
Notes: Rare

Table 3
Tenses - indicative

Future perfect
(passé antérieur)
Past conditional
1st Singular. j'aurai pu je pourrais j'aurais pu
2nd Singular tu auras pu tu pourrais tu aurais pu
3rd Singular il aura pu il pourrait il aurait pu
1st plural nous aurons pu nous pourrions nous aurions pu
2nd plural vous aurez pu vous pourriez vous auriez pu
3rd plural ils auront pu ils pourraient ils auraient pu
Notes: Rare

Table 4
Imperative and participles

Present participle
Past participle
2nd Singular pouvant pu
1st plural
2nd plural
Notes: Modal verbs are not
used in the imperative

Table 5
Tenses - subjunctive

(passé antérieur)
Past or imperfect
1st Singular. je puisse je pusse j'aie pu
2nd Singular tu puisses tu pusses tu aies pu
3rd Singular il puisse il pût il ait pu
1st plural nous puissions nous pussions nous ayons pu
2nd plural vous puissiez vous pussiez vous ayez pu
3rd plural ils puissent ils pussent ils aient pu
Notes: Rare

Further subjunctive cases - such as a pluperfect subjunctive ( "J'eus pu"  !) - can theoretically be formed, though to all intents and purposes these are never used in modern French.

Pouvoir : examples of use


1. Pouvez-vous m'aider s'il vous plaît?
   Can you help me please
2. Je pourrai venir demain matin à 10h.
   I can (I'll be able to) come tomorrow morning at 10.
3. N'ayant pas pu terminer la course, il a abandonné.
   Having been unable to finish the race, he abandoned.
4. Il faut que cela puisse résister à une température de -50°.
   It has to be able to stand up to a temperature of minus fifty.

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