I knew that these auxiliary verbs mean the low possibility though. Should I use this one?

For example:

Even if you can not pick up English...

  1. you might be able to work abroad.

  2. you may be able to work abroad

  3. you could work abroad.

Which one is correct?

  • In future questions like this one, it might be better to ask, "Which of these are correct?" (When you ask "Which one is correct?" it sounds like you think one of them is correct and the rest of them are therefore incorrect. Oftentimes – as in this case – all of them are correct.)
    – J.R.
    Nov 28, 2018 at 11:50

2 Answers 2


Native English speakers tend to use all these auxiliary/modal verbs without giving a thought to which is most appropriate. The choice depends largely on preference and on the context.

May is generally associated with seeking or giving authority/permission and with uncertainty.

May I say something?

Yes, you certainly may.

Can is associated more with ability/skills.

Can you finish the job today?

I may not be able to.

Could and might are both used mainly after a main verb in the past tense and before conditions. So:

He says he may go this weekend

(often) becomes:

He said he might go this weekend.

And we often say things like:

I could do it if I had the tools


I might go to the beach if the sun shines.

So you may be able to work abroad and you might be able to work abroad mean exactly the same thing but the latter works better after a main verb in the past tense.

You can work abroad states that you have either the skills or the go-ahead (or both) to do so.

You could work abroad would generally (but not always) be used before a condition although a speaker might well say this in response to a question.

I can't find work in this country.

Well, you could work abroad.

However, there are whole books on the usage of these verbs and you will find guidance at numerous sites including these:




you might be able to work abroad

This shows that you won’t certainly be able to work abroad. You might but it is not a 100% possibility.

you may be able to work abroad

Means the same thing, it is not certain that you can work abroad.

you could work abroad

Also indicates uncertainty that you may not be able to work abroad.

Can indicates certainty:

You can work abroad

  • What is "uncertainty that is not certain". That's not very clear.
    – James K
    Nov 28, 2018 at 9:30
  • @JamesK Made it cleared
    – user109564
    Nov 28, 2018 at 9:38

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