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CAN
and
BE ABLE TO
CAN / CAN’T: modal verb.
-To talk about ability, possibility or permission.
. ONLY past and conditional structures
– could...
Can is used in the present tense. It is used 
to talk about our ability to do things.
I can swim / She can speak English w...
• To talk about our past ability, we 
use could. 
Was/were able to is also possible.
She could read when she was three. 
O...
• To talk about things that we managed to do /
succeed in, on specific occasions in the past, we
CANNOT use could.  Inste...
• Both could and be able to can be used to say
that we were NOT CAPABLE of doing
something on a specific occasion in the p...
• Both could and be able to can be used to say 
that we were NOT CAPABLE of doing 
something on a specific occasion in the...
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Can and be able to

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can and be able to

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Can and be able to

  1. 1. CAN and BE ABLE TO
  2. 2. CAN / CAN’T: modal verb. -To talk about ability, possibility or permission. . ONLY past and conditional structures – could / couldn’t - NOT present / past perfect, infinitive and –ing form...  BE ABLE TO *For the future you can use CAN or WILL BE ABLE TO I can’t / won’t be able to go to the cinema tomorrow.
  3. 3. Can is used in the present tense. It is used  to talk about our ability to do things. I can swim / She can speak English well. Be able to is also possible in these cases;  however, it sounds a bit more formal here. I am able to swim. (Less natural) She is able to speak English well.
  4. 4. • To talk about our past ability, we  use could.  Was/were able to is also possible. She could read when she was three.  OR  She was able to read when she was three. *[in spoken English, we are less likely to use was able to]
  5. 5. • To talk about things that we managed to do / succeed in, on specific occasions in the past, we CANNOT use could.  Instead, we use was/were able to. I was able to get some really good bargains in the sale. NOT I could get some really good bargains in the sale. After climbing for several hours, we were able to get to the  top of the mountain. NOT … we could get to the top of the mountain.
  6. 6. • Both could and be able to can be used to say that we were NOT CAPABLE of doing something on a specific occasion in the past. In spite of climbing for hours, we couldn’t get to the top  of the mountain.  OR In spite of climbing for hours, we weren’t able to get to  the top of the mountain.
  7. 7. • Both could and be able to can be used to say  that we were NOT CAPABLE of doing  something on a specific occasion in the past. In spite of climbing for hours, we couldn’t get to the top of the mountain. OR In spite of climbing for hours, we weren’t able to get to the top of the mountain.

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