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When do you use to be able to?


Does it substitute for can, in which tenses?

For learning: English
Base language: English
Category: Other



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    Best Answer - Chosen by the Asker
    If can be used in place of 'can' in any tense. It is more formal in speaking and more eloquent in writing.
    He couldn't figure it out. = He wasn't able to figure it out.
    He couldn't catch a flight fast enough to make it here. = He wasn't able to catch a flight...
    I can't swim. = I'm not able to swim.
    I can't go because I'm not well. = I'm not able to go because I'm sick.
    I can't meet you this weekend. = I won't be able to meet you..
    I can't graduate if I don't pass this class. = I won't be able to graduate if...

    Here is something super important for you to remember:

    IF we are talking about what happened IN A PARTICULAR SITUATION, we use "was / were able to." NOT "could."

    a. The fire spread through the building quickly, but everybody WAS ABLE to escape.

    (NOT: "could escape.")

    P.S, The NEGATIVE "couldn't" is OK: "Sadly, they couldn't escape."

    Credit for this information goes to: Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy. (The sentence "Sadly, they couldn't escape" was my idea; ALL the other information is Mr. Murphy's.)

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