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'Could' is a past form of 'can'
When I was living in Boston, I could walk to work. He phoned to say he couldn't come. I could see him clearly but I couldn't hear him and then the videoconference line went dead.
'Could' is used to make polite requests. We can also use 'can' for these but 'could' is more polite.
Could you help me, please? Could you lend me some money? Could I have a lift? Could I bother you for a moment?
If we use 'could' in reply to these requests, it suggests that we do not really want to do it. If you agree to the request, it is better to say 'can'.
Of course I can. I could help you if it's really necessary but I'm really busy right now. I could lend you some money but I'd need it back tomorrow without fail. I could give you a lift as far as Birmingham.
'Could' is used to talk about theoretical possibility and is similar in meaning to 'might'.
It could rain later. Take an umbrella. He could be there by now. Could he be any happier? It could be Sarah's.
Can, Could, Be able to
Can and could are modal auxiliary verbs. Be able to is NOT an auxiliary verb (it uses the verb be as a main verb). We include be able to here for convenience.
In this lesson we look at these three verbs, followed by a quiz to check your understanding:
Can is an auxiliary verb, a modal auxiliary verb. We use can to:
(I can't hear you. Notice that: Can is invariable. There is only one form of can. The main verb is always the bare infinitive (infinitive without "to"). what we are able or free to do: She can drive a car. But it is possible to use can when we make present decisions about future ability. we use can for the present. John can speak Spanish. . subject + I auxiliary verb can cannot He can't ? Can you play tennis? play tennis. talk about possibility and ability make requests ask for or give permission Structure of Can subject + can + main verb The main verb is always the bare infinitive (infinitive without "to"). I cannot hear you.) Can you hear me? Normally. main verb play tennis. The main verb is always the bare infinitive. We cannot say: Use of Can can: Possibility and Ability We use can to talk about what is possible.
This is not a real question . might for permission. Can you put the TV on. . The use of can for permission is informal.we do not really want to know if the person is able to do something. But I can help you tomorrow. (future) can: Requests and Orders We often use can in a question to ask somebody to do something. Can you be quiet! can: Permission We sometimes use can to ask or give permission for something: A. please. subject + My grandmother auxiliary verb could main verb swim. Can I smoke in this room? B. You can't smoke here.A. We use could to: talk about past possibility or ability make requests Structure of Could subject + could + main verb The main verb is always the bare infinitive (infinitive without "to"). Sorry. a modal auxiliary verb. may.) Could » Could Could is an auxiliary verb. we want them to do it! The use of can in this way is informal (mainly between friends and family): Can you make a cup of coffee. (Note that we also use could. but you can smoke in the garden. Can you help me with my homework? (present) B. Can you come here a minute. I'm busy today.
When we arrived home. The police couldn't save him..couldn't open the door. The police were able to save him. we use be able to (positive) and couldn't (negative). My grandmother could speak seven languages. But when we talk about one special occasion in the past. The main verb is always the bare infinitive. what we were able or free to do: I could swim when I was 5 years old.could not She couldn't ? Could your grandmother swim? walk. We cannot say: Use of Could could: Past Possibility or Ability We use could to talk about what was possible in the past. The main verb is always the bare infinitive.) Could you understand what he was saying? We use could (positive) and couldn't (negative) for general ability in the past.. There is only one form of could. (. Notice that: Could is invariable. A man fell into the river yesterday. Look at these examples: Past General My grandmother could speak Spanish. + - . Specific Occasion A man fell into the river yesterday. My grandmother couldn't speak Spanish. we could not open the door.
. please? Be able to Although we look at be able to here. it is not a modal verb. I will be able to drive. We look at be able to here because we sometimes use it instead of can and could.... It is simply the verb be plus an adjective (able) followed by the infinitive.. We use be able to: to talk about ability Structure of Be able to The structure of be able to is: subject + be + able + infinitive be main verb am is not She isn't ? Are you able to drive? able to drive. The use of could in this way is fairly polite (formal): Could you tell me where the bank is. please? Could you send me a catalogue. I have been able to drive. for example: I was able to drive... Notice that be able to is possible in all tenses.could: Requests We often use could in a question to ask somebody to do something. able adjective able subject + I infinitive to drive.
"Able" is an adjective meaning: having the power. Use of Be able to Be able to is not a modal auxiliary verb. (future simple) I would like to be able to fly an airplane. A wasn't able to couldn't haven't been able to can to play B eats C 3 She ______________ come on holiday next month if her parents give her permission. Look at these examples: I have been able to swim since I was five. I ______________do it yet. 8 He ______________ pass the exam if he studied harder. be able to: ability We use be able to to express ability. "can" and "could" have no infinitive form. We sometimes use "be able to" instead of "can" or "could" for ability.Notice too that be able to has an infinitive form: I would like to be able to speak Chinese. So we use "be able to" when we want to use other tenses or the infinitive.but "can" is possible only in the present and "could" is possible only in the past for ability. skill or means to do something. (present perfect) You will be able to speak perfect English very soon. In addition. "Be able to" is possible in all tenses . A B C am not able to 6 You'll be able to solve this. 1 I ______________ remember his name. because it is often used like "can" and "could". ______________? A can you won't you will you can't B red herring C 2 Diana ______________ the piano. If we say "I am able to swim". Teacher. We include it here for convenience. A B C can play 7 Sorry. Could and To Be Able To Exercise at Auto-English Circle the correct answer. . (infinitive) Can. Fill the gaps when you´ve checked your answers. it is like saying "I can swim". which are modal auxiliary verbs.
A B C couldn't won't be able to will can't 10B . I haven't got any either. A B C couldn't can't 9 The fishing boat sank but luckily all the crew ______________ save themselves. We're going to a wedding. A were able to could wasn't able to wasn't able to B C 5 A: Can you lend me some money? B: Sorry.A B C can't could will be able to A B C will be able to can would be able to 4 They ______________ go. The weather was too bad. A B can't am not able to couldn't C Answers 1B 2A 3C 4A 5A 6B 7C 8C 9A 10 We ______________ go to the party. I ______________.
is possible instead of can. (can has no present perfect) • Tom can come tomorrow. can (present) and could (past).. We use could especially with: See/ hear/ smell/ taste/ feel/ remember/ understand • When we went into the house. could and be able to..Can.. (can has no infinitive) Could and was able to. could. So sometimes it is necessary to use (be) able to. Can. we could smell burning. Compare: • I can't sleep. (Be) able to. The negative is can't (= cannot): • I'm afraid I can't come to the party on Friday. but Tom might be able to come tomorrow.): • We can see the lake from our bedroom window. but I could understand what she said.. We also use could to say that somebody had the general ability or permission to do something: . but can is more usual: • Are you able to speak any foreign languages? But can has only two forms. • Can you speak any foreign languages? • I can come and see you tomorrow if you like.. but I haven't been able to sleep recently. • She spoke in a very low voice. be able to 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. Sometimes could is the past of can.
When we went into the house.. (= he managed to beat him in this particular game) The negative couldn't (could not) is possible in all situations: • My grandfather couldn't swim. Ask Catherine about your problem. (but not 'could persuade') Compare: • Jack was an excellent tennis player.. Sue wasn't at home when I phoned but I was able to contact her at her office. He can speak four languages. Alf played very well but in the end Jack managed to beat him. • Alf played well but he couldn't beat Jack. I was feeling sick yesterday. 4.. We could do what we wanted. or . 7. 2. He could beat anybody. When Tim was 16. Will she be able to cope with the work? 10.. . George has travelled a lot. (= he had the general ability to beat anybody) but • Jack and Alf had a game of tennis yesterday. or . (= we were allowed to do.. or could.. we could smell burning. I couldn't eat anything.. I used to be able to stand on my head but I can't do it now. Sandra can drive but she hasn't got a car. we use was/were able to.was able to beat him..we were able to persuade them. 8. or managed to. able to .) We use could for general ability. (but not 'could escape') • They didn't want to come with us at first but we managed to persuade them. he was a fast runner. • We tried hard but we couldn't persuade them to come with us. 5.• My grandfather could speak five languages. (Not could): • The fire spread through the building quickly but everybody was able to escape. 9. 6. or everybody managed to escape. I can't see you on Friday but I can meet you on Saturday evening.. But if we are talking about what happened in a particular situation.. RESULTS 1. She might be able to help you. • We were completely free. Complete the sentences using can . He could run 100 metres in 11. 3.
Click on the box beside the best answer. Kevin was disappointed because he ____________ get tickets for the football game. could not / can 2. he swims every day! 1. "Yes. "Mommy. weren't able to 2. is able to / is able to 2. could / couldn't 2. couldn't / can 5. is able to 6. Can 3. Could. of course not! 1. Am I able to 2. 1. When Vera was young. In fact. can / can 7. May 9. you ____________. 1. He ____________ be sick. 1. My cat ____________ jump. can / can't 2. The family can't decide where to go on vacation." 1. ____________ I have a cookie?" The mother said. but it ____________ talk. 1. but she ____________ speak it perfectly. might / may 10. They ____________ go to Los Angeles or they ____________ go to Hawaii. She took a typing class and now she ____________ type very quickly! 1. she ____________ type quickly. be able to / cannot 8. She ____________ understand Korean very well. Could 2. wasn't able to 4. is able to / cannot 3. ____________ I borrow your dictionary? 1.Can. May.Modals of Ability 1 . couldn't / can't 2. ____________ dogs fly? No. 1. May 3. The little girl asked. but now he ____________. 1. may / might 2. could / can't 3. may / are able to 3. Peter ____________ swim when he was a child. can / are able to 3. Might 3. can 3. Might Choose the best modal for each sentence. could not / can to . Be able to. George is absent from class today. Do can 2. can't / can 2.
so many of them failed. 7. Be able to. 4. Sara ____________ Italian food and she ____________ French food too! 1. They were too sick. 6. I can't hear you. She rarely practiced French.3. can / could 11. Could 3. could I ask you a question? 9. Maybe we can ask our boss for help. 1. . James and Sara were so sad because they couldn't go to their brother's wedding. Might Use the best modal to complete each sentence. is able to 12. May Modals of Ability 2 . I might not go to school tomorrow because I'm feeling sick right now. ____________ you play the piano when you were a child? 1. use a negative form when necessary. I'm sorry. A: We have a big problem. The students couldn't understand the instructions for the test yesterday. Can 2. might 3. so she can't speak it anymore. can 2. can cooking / can cooking 13. 8. What can we do? B: I don't know. 1. We might go to a movie or we might stay home and relax. she could speak three languages: French. 5. 10. I'm going to bring an umbrella today because it ____________ rain. Could. When Tina was a child. A: What are you going to do on the weekend? B: I'm not sure yet. can cooks / can cooks 2. Your score is: 86%. Please speak more loudly. Correct! Well done. Arabic and English. 3. My little brother can play piano and guitar. I'm not sure. can cook / is able to cook 3. May. May I borrow your pencil? Thanks! 2.Can. Excuse me.
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