CAN / BE ABLE TO 1. ABILITY He can speak two foreign languages fluently. He is able to speak languages fluently. two foreign My son doesn’t attend school yet, but he can / is able to read and write already. 1. ABILITY (negative sentences) we use “can’t” and “am/is/are not able to. He can run very long distances, but he can’t run very fast. He is able to run very long distances, but he isn’t able to run very fast. I can speak English, but I can’t speak French. I am able to speak English, but I am not able to speak French. 2. POSSIBILITY I will finish my homework in an hour, so I can help you then. I am very busy now, so I can’t help you. Overexposure to the sun’s rays can lead to skin cancer. Drinks in restaurants can be very expensive. 3. PERMISSION You can leave your purchases here until you finish your shopping. Because tomorrow is holiday, you can stay up late tonight. Those who have finished answering the questions can leave the classroom. PAST FORM OF “CAN” AND “BE ABLE TO” can be able to could was/were able to I could run very fast when I was a child. I was able to run very fast when I was a child. Some students in my previous class could /were able to speak English almost fluently, but they weren’t so good at grammar. PAST FORM OF “CAN” AND “BE ABLE TO” COULD” is used in ability and permission meaning in the past. Mozart could play the piano when he was only four. (ability) My grandfather was very strong. He could lift enormous boxes on his own. (ability) It was raining heavily. We could go out only when it had stopped raining. (permission) PAST FORM OF “CAN” AND “BE ABLE TO” “WAS/WERE ABLE TO” is also used in ability and permission meaning in the past. However, we only use “WAS/WERE ABLE TO” in the meaning of “manage to do sth” in the past. PAST FORM OF “CAN” AND “BE ABLE TO” He was a good swimmer when he was a child. He could/was able to swim faster than all the other children. (ability) I had a good voice when I was younger. I could /was able to sing very well, especially folk song. (ability) PAST FORM OF “CAN” AND “BE ABLE TO” When their maths teacher didn’t come, the students were able to / were allowed to leave school earlier. (permission) One specific event !!! The maths exam was very difficult yesterday, but I was able to get a high grade, anyway. (managed to get a high grade) Last month, there was a huge fire in our street. Luckily, the fire brigade came just in time to estinguish it, so everyone was able to escape unhurt. (managed to escape unhurt) PAST FORM OF “CAN” AND “BE ABLE TO” When I was a child, I could / was able to run very fast. I could/ was able to beat anyone who raced with me. (ability) Once, I raced with a school friend of mine, She was also a fast runner. It was a hard race for me, but I was able to beat her in the end. (one specific) PAST FORM OF “CAN” AND “BE ABLE TO” In negative sentences, we can use both COULD and WAS/WERE ABLE TO in three meanings ( ability, permission and one specific event). COULD is used more frequently. I couldn’t / wasn’t able to use a computer just three months ago, but now I can. The students didn’t want to have a test that day, but they couldn’t / weren’t able to persuade the teacher to cancel it. EXERCISE Use COULD to express “ability and permission” and WAS/WERE ABLE TO to express “to overcome a difficult situation” 1. He ___ swim very long distances when he was a teenager, but after years of heavy smoking, he no longer can. 2. We had been warned that our flight might be delayed this morning, but the pilot ___ take off despite heavy fog. 3. Because she ___sing better than anyone, she was asked to do a solo at the graduation ball. 4. Some terrorists telephoned the police to warn that they had planted a bomb in the local shopping centre. Luckily, the police ___ evacuate the area before it exploded. 5. We stayed at a beautiful seaside town for our summer holiday, and on a clear day from our hotel room, we ___ see a lot of fishing –boats on the horizon. EXERCISE Use COULD to express “ability and permission” and WAS/WERE ABLE TO to express “to overcome a difficult situation” 6. Although they had locked themselves out of their apartment, they ___ get in through window. 7. My old flat was behind the football stadium, and on match days, we ___ hear the cheers of the crowd. 8. We used to live in the mountains, so in winter, we ___ go skiing, whenever we liked. 9. I’ m glad we ___ persuade the teacher to put tomorrow’s exam off till next Monday. Now, we will have plenty of time to revise.