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Modal verbs 2
Can, could, and be able to, talking about ability.
A- We sometimes use be able to instead of can and could to talk about ability. However, we avoid be able to:
=> when we talk about something that is happening as we speak:
- Watch me, Mum; I can stand on one leg, ( not... I'm able to stand on one leg)
=> Before passives:
- CDs can now be copied easily. (rather than CDs are now able to be copied..)
=> When the meaning is know how to:
- Can you cook? (rather than Are you able to cook?)
B- If we talk about a single achievement, rather than a general ability in the past, we usually use be able to rather than could. Compare:
- Sue could play the flute quite well. (or ..was able to...; a general ability) and
- She swam strongly and she was able to cross the river easily, even though it was swollen by the heavy rain. (not She swam strongly and could cross....; a specific achievement)
However, could is usually more natural:
=> In negative sentences:
- I tried to get up but I couldn't move. ( rather than .. I wasn't able to move.)
=> With sense verbs- e.g. feel, hear, see, smell, taste- and with verbs of thinking
e.g.believe,decide, remember, understand:
- I could remember the crash, but nothing after that. ( rather than I was able to remember...)
=> After the phrases the only thing/ place/ time, and after all when it means the only thing:
- All we could see were his feet. (rather than All we were able to ....)
=> To suggest that something almost didn't happen, especially with almost, hardly, just, nearly:
- I could nearly touch the ceiling. ( rather than I was nearly able to... )
Choose the correct or more natural answer.
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