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    Learn English > English lessons and exercises > English test #5455: Modal verbs 2
    > Other English exercises on the same topic: Modals [Change theme]
    > Similar tests: - Modal : may/might - Placement test 1 - Modal can (video) - Which modal and when? - Modal verb : must / have to - Modal : can/could - Must / Have to - Modal verbs
    > Double-click on words you don't understand

    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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    English exercise "Modal verbs 2" created by felin with The test builder. [More lessons & exercises from felin]
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    1. Valuables be left in the hotel safe. Please ask at the reception desk.

    2. We finish the football match before it started snowing too heavily.

    3. The rebels draw on the support of over 20,000 soldiers.

    4. understand Professor Larsen's lecture? I found it really difficult.

    5. 'Do you want a game?' 'Sorry, I play chess.

    6. Look at me, I ride my bike without any help.

    7. When the fire officers arrived they put out the flames in a couple of minutes.

    8. The air was so polluted in the city centre, I breathe.

    9. I knew John had been smoking. I smell the cigarettes when I came into the room.

    10. drive without your glasses?

    11. No changes be made to this rail ticket after purchase.

    12. He untie the ropes without the guards noticing.

    13. She looked all over the house, but find her keys anywhere.

    14. I was very busy at work, but I have a couple of days off last week.

    End of the free exercise to learn English: Modal verbs 2
    A free English exercise to learn English.
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