Are they used interchangeably or do they really have separate uses? I keep getting confused between the three.

  • No, they are not interchangeable. It would require a whole book chapter to answer your question in detail. And your question has been posted before, refer to: chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/253/… – imrek Aug 4 '15 at 7:24
  • short answer: 会 relate to knowledge; 可以 relate to principles or laws; 能 related to ability. – wolfrevo Aug 4 '15 at 11:12

They have pretty similar meaning and almost interchangeable in daily conversation but there are subtle differences between these three words.

  • 可以 means you can do something
  • 能 is used when you want to emphasise you have the ability to do something
  • 会 means you are not only able to do it but do it proficiently

There are a few examples:

  • 我可以说中文 I can speak Chinese (probably not very well and maybe not willing to speak Chinese)
  • 我能说中文 I am able to speak Chinese (I'm not those people who completely don't understand Chinese)
  • 我会说中文 I can speak Chinese proficiently (probably you can speak Chinese fluently and you're willing to speak Chinese)

I hope this will be helpful.

  • Very good answer, upvote! – Pedroski Aug 4 '15 at 11:41