|Unit 26: How to Use Can, Can’t, Could, Couldn’t and To be able to|
|Sunday, 29 April 2012 06:00|
Unit 26: How to Use Can, Can’t, Could, Couldn’t and To be able to
1. How to use " can"
a) - We use can to say that something is possible or that somebody has the ability to do something. We use can + infinitive (can do/can see etc.):
Example: - Can you speak any foreign languages?
- I can come and see you tomorrow if you like.
b) The negative is can't (= cannot):
+ I'm afraid I can't come to the party on Friday.
2. How to use “be able to"
- To (Be) able to ... is possible instead of can, but can is more usual:
Example: - Are you able to speak any foreign languages?
- But can has only two forms, can (present) and could (past). So sometimes it is necessary to use (be) able to... Compare:
Example: - I can't sleep.
but I haven't been able to sleep recently. (can has no present perfect)
Example: - Tom can come tomorrow.
but Tom might be able to come tomorrow. (can has no infinitive)
3. Could and was able to...
- Sometimes could is the past of can. We use could especially with: see hear smell taste feel remember understand
Example: - When we went into the house, we could smell burning.
+ She spoke in a very low voice, but I could understand what she said.
4. General ability or permission
We also use could to say that somebody had the general ability or permission to do something:
Example: - My grandfather could speak five languages.
- We were completely free. We could do what we wanted. (= we were allowed to do ...)
5. General ability
- We use could for general ability. But if we are talking about what happened in a particular situation, we use was/were able to... or managed to... (not could):
-The fire spread through the building quickly but everybody was able to escape. or ... everybody managed to escape. (but not 'could escape')
- They didn't want to come with us at first but we managed to persuade them. or ... we were able to persuade them. (but not 'could persuade')
- Jack was an excellent tennis player. He could beat anybody. he had the general ability to beat anybody)
- Jack and Alf had a game of tennis yesterday. Alf played very well but in the end Jack managed to beat him. or ... was able to beat him. (= he managed to beat him in this particular game)
6. The negative couldn't (could not) is possible in all situations:
Example: - My grandfather couldn't (could not) is possible in all situations
+ We tried hard but we couldn't persuade them to come with us.
+ Alf played well but he couldn't beat Jack.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 29 April 2012 06:22|
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