Quick answer
"Was" is a form of "be", a copular verb which is often translated as "ser". "Can" is an auxiliary verb which is often translated as "poder". Learn more about the difference between "was" and "can" below.
be(
bi
)
A copular verb links the subject of a clause to the predicate (e.g. My brother is tall).
1. (used to indicate a permanent quality)
a. ser
The ocean is blue.El océano es azul.
2. (used to indicate a temporary state)
a. estar
I'm not in a good mood today.Hoy no estoy de buen humor.
The sky is cloudy.El cielo está nublado.
3. (followed by a noun)
a. ser
France is a member of the European Union.Francia es un miembro de la Unión Europea.
4. (used to indicate a profession or occupation)
a. ser
What do you do for a living? - I'm a doctor.¿A qué te dedicas? - Soy médico.
5. (used with dates)
a. ser
My birthday is July 26th.Mi cumpleaños es el 26 de julio.
b. estamos a (present day)
Today is Thursday.Hoy estamos a jueves.
6. (imperative mood)
a. ser
Be polite with guests.Sé educado con los invitados.
b. estar
Be quiet, and don't move!¡Estate callado y no te muevas!
7. (used to indicate age)
a. tener
My brother is 30 years old.Mi hermano tiene 30 años.
8. (to cost)
a. costar
One pizza and two drinks are $15.Una pizza y dos bebidas cuestan $15.
b. ser
Shipping is three dollars.El envío es tres dólares.
An intransitive verb is one that does not require a direct object (e.g. The man sneezed.).
9. (to take place)
a. ser
The party is at my place.La fiesta es en mi casa.
10. (to be present)
a. estar
My sister is in her room.Mi hermana está en su habitación.
11. (to visit; used with the present perfect)
a. estar
I've been to New York three times.He estado en Nueva York tres veces.
b. venir
The mailman has been here, but he didn't bring your package.El cartero ha venido, pero no trajo tu paquete.
An impersonal verb is a verb with no apparent subject (e.g. Llueve en España.).
12. (to exist)
a. haber
There are no trees on our road.No hay árboles en nuestra calle.
13. (used to indicate time)
a. ser
It is bedtime.Es hora de ir a dormir.
14. (used to refer to the weather)
a. hacer
It's too windy to go up in a balloon.Hace demasiado viento para ir en globo.
An auxiliary verb, or helper verb, is a conjugated verb that comes before a main verb and determines the main verb's tense, mood, or aspect (e.g. I have gone.).
15. (with tenses of continuous action)
a. estar
I am reading a book.Estoy leyendo un libro.
16. (with the passive voice)
a. ser
The church was built in 1900.La iglesia fue construida en 1900.
17. (when substituting a verb)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
I'm going to the party. - So am I.Voy a la fiesta. - Yo también.
It is a lovely day, isn't it?Es un día precioso, ¿verdad?
18. (with infinitive constructions)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
I don't know how much salt is to be added to the sauce.No sé cuánta sal hay que añadir a la salsa.
The assignment is to be done by next Thursday.La tarea tiene que estar para el jueves que viene.
19. (used to indicate the future)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
My baby is due in three months.Mi bebé nacerá dentro de tres meses.
Tomorrow, I'm going to the dentist.Mañana voy al dentista.
20. (in conditional sentences)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
Had it not been for his family, he would have never become an artist.Si no fuera por su familia, nunca habría sido artista.
If I were you, I would not go.Yo en tu lugar, no iría.
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can(
kahn
)
An auxiliary verb, or helper verb, is a conjugated verb that comes before a main verb and determines the main verb's tense, mood, or aspect (e.g. I have gone.).
1. (used to indicate ability)
a. poder
I can run five miles in an hour.Puedo correr cinco millas en una hora.
b. saber
I can cook Italian food too.También sé cocinar comida italiana.
2. (used to ask permission)
a. poder
Can I go out with Jennifer on Friday night?¿Puedo salir con Jennifer el viernes por la noche?
3. (used to indicate possibility)
a. poder
If you like, you can have the salad with the dressing on the side.Si desea, puede pedir la ensalada con el aderezo al lado.
4. (with verbs of perception)
a.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
I can't tell if it's going to rain or snow.No sé si va a llover o nevar.
I couldn't see because of the brightness of that light.No veía por culpa del resplandor de esa luz.
A noun is a word referring to a person, animal, place, thing, feeling or idea (e.g. man, dog, house).
5. (container)
a. la lata
(f) means that a noun is feminine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
There are about 140 calories in one can of soda.Una lata de refresco tiene unas 140 calorías.
b. el bote
(m) means that a noun is masculine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
Do you think one can of paint will be enough for the whole room?¿Crees que con un bote de pintura nos llega para toda la habitación?
6.
A word or phrase that is commonly used in conversational speech (e.g. skinny, grandma).
(colloquial)
(toilet)
Regionalism used in the United States
(United States)
a. el baño
(m) means that a noun is masculine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
I rushed to the can but it was occupied.Corrí al baño pero estaba ocupado.
7. (fuel container)
a. el bidón
(m) means that a noun is masculine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
Packing an empty gas can in your trunk is wise.Llevar un bidón de gasolina vacío en el maletero es inteligente.
8.
A very informal word or phrase used by a particular group or community as a substitute for standard language (e.g. joint, john).
(slang)
(prison)
Regionalism used in the United States
(United States)
a. la chirona
(f) means that a noun is feminine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
A very informal word or phrase used by a particular group or community as a substitute for standard language (e.g. joint, john).
(slang)
They threw him in the can for armed robbery.Lo tiraron a la chirona por robo armado.
9.
A word or phrase that is commonly used in conversational speech (e.g. skinny, grandma).
(colloquial)
(buttocks)
Regionalism used in the United States
(United States)
a. el culo
(m) means that a noun is masculine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
A word or phrase that is commonly used in conversational speech (e.g. skinny, grandma).
(colloquial)
Rob deserves a good kick in the can for that.Rob se merece una buena patada en el culo por eso.
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
10. (to preserve by sealing)
a. enlatar
She usually cans vegetables for the homeless every December.Suele enlatar verduras para la gente sin hogar cada diciembre.
11.
A very informal word or phrase used by a particular group or community as a substitute for standard language (e.g. joint, john).
(slang)
(to fire)
Regionalism used in the United States
(United States)
a. poner de patitas en la calle
A very informal word or phrase used by a particular group or community as a substitute for standard language (e.g. joint, john).
(slang)
My boss canned me for reading comics at work.El jefe me puso de patitas en la calle por leer cómics en el trabajo.
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