15 English Phrases with CAN’T

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Today we’re going to learn 15 English phrases and expressions using the word can’t – like can’t be bothered, can’t hold a candle, can’t stomach, and more.

I bet a number of these expressions will be new to you – so make sure to download the PDF of this lesson and try the quiz.

All right, I can’t wait to get started! And that’s our first expression:

#1 – Can’t wait

This means you are very eager and excited for something to happen in the future.

  • My kids can’t wait to go to Disney World this summer.

15 English Phrases with CAN'T Espresso English

#2 – Can’t hold a candle to something

This means one thing is not nearly as good as something else.

Let’s say there was a great classic movie, and then a remake – that’s when they make a more modern version of the same movie. If I say:

  • “The remake was OK, but it can’t hold a candle to the original.”
    = I’m saying the original is MUCH better.

#3 – Can’t be bothered

If you can’t be bothered to do something, it means you have no time or interest to do it. It is not important enough for your attention.

  • “I can’t be bothered to keep up with celebrity news. It’s such a waste of time.”

#4 – Can’t carry a tune

Someone who can’t carry a tune has no musical ability; they can’t sing a simple melody correctly.

  • Jeff wants to sing in the church choir, but he can’t carry a tune.

#5 – Can’t tell

The expression can’t tell means “can’t perceive/observe.” We often use it in the phrases:

  • can’t tell the difference between (two similar things)
    Ex) I can’t tell the difference between these two types of rice.
  • can’t tell if/whether (something is the case or not)
    Ex) I can’t tell if he’s serious or not.

15 English Phrases with CAN'T Espresso English

#6 – Can’t get enough

If you can’t get enough of something, it means you want more and more of it.

  • I can’t get enough of these cookies. They’re delicious!

 15 English Phrases with CAN'T Espresso English

#7 – Can’t stand

If you can’t stand something, it means it really annoys or irritates you; you strongly dislike it. We often use it in these two phrases:

  • can’t stand + noun
    Ex) I can’t stand the smell of onions.
  • can’t stand it when + situation
    Ex) I can’t stand it when my kids come into the house with muddy shoes.

#8 – Can’t bear

If you can’t bear something, it means it makes you extremely sad; it is difficult for you to endure. “I can’t bear to live so far away from my family.”

We often use it in these ways:

  • can’t bear to watch
    Ex) The death scene in that movie is horrible. I can’t bear to watch it.
  • can’t bear the thought of
    Ex) He’s so focused on success; he can’t bear the thought of failing.

#9 – Can’t help it

Saying you can’t help means that you are unable to stop or prevent yourself from doing something or feeling a certain way. For example,

  • “I know I shouldn’t feel guilty since it wasn’t my fault, but I can’t help it.”

You can also say I can’t help + verb in the -ING form:

  • “I can’t help feeling guilty, even though it wasn’t my fault.”

#10 – You can’t beat that! / You can’t top that!

These expressions mean the situation is the best; it can’t be any better.

  • “I spent a week relaxing on the beach and eating delicious food – you can’t beat that!”

The “you” is impersonal; it is talking about the situation in general, not talking to a specific person. Sometimes we say it without the “you” – “Can’t beat that!” and “Can’t top that!”

15 English Phrases with CAN'T Espresso English

#11 – Can’t hack it

This is a slang phrase that means you don’t have the skills to do something or you can’t tolerate a situation.

  • His stories are boring and nobody buys his books – he can’t hack it as a writer.

#12 – Can’t stomach

If you can’t stomach something, it also means you can’t tolerate it, but with more of the connotation that it makes you feel disgusted or produces a strong feeling of dislike.

  • I can’t stomach horror movies, but my boyfriend loves them.

#13 – Can’t win

You can say you can’t win when there’s a situation in which it’s impossible to succeed or to please everyone.

  • My husband is a vegetarian, but my kids hate vegetables. When it comes to cooking dinner for the family, I can’t win.

15 English Phrases with CAN'T Espresso English

#14 – Can’t believe one’s eyes

We say we can’t believe our eyes when we’re very surprised or shocked about what we’re seeing.

  • When a famous actress sat next to me on the subway, I couldn’t believe my eyes!

#15 – Can’t thank you enough

This phrase expresses very deep, sincere gratitude. It is usually used when you are thanking the person for something they did that was very significant or very meaningful to you.

  • I can’t thank you enough for looking after my kids while I stayed with my wife in the hospital.

15 English Phrases with CAN'T Espresso English

There you have 15 expressions with can’t! Your next step is to download the PDF and try the quiz to see how well you’ve learned these phrases.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

One last thing – there’s a famous quote by Henry Ford that goes like this:

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

This means if you have a positive attitude and you believe you can do something, then you will be able to do it. But if you have a negative attitude and you believe you can’t do something, then you won’t be able to do it.

Our mindset has a very powerful effect on our success. So that’s why I’m always encouraging you NOT to say or think things like “I can’t speak English very well” or “I can’t become fluent” because these attitudes will actually prevent you from reaching your goal.

I believe you CAN reach your English-learning goals, and I’m here to help you with my lessons and courses! One of the best ways to learn is to join my Complete Program, so you can improve every area of your English and get a 50% discount.