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Thread: could

  1. #1
    lindadanca is offline Banned
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    Default could

    Hello,

    I am confused about 'could' and i hope you will help my questions.

    I could swim well yesterday.

    I was able to swim well yesterday.

    I know the second one is correct. But I have just read about this and it says like that;

    I could hear all the noise at home yesterday = I was able to hear all the noise at home yesterday.

    It says that you can use 'could' at this sentence because of 'hear, see , smell...etc)

    Is that right?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: could

    In speaking about the past, 'could' tells us about our ability to to something, but does not necessarily say that we did it; 'was/were able to' says that we had the ability and did it. So, "I could swim well yesterday" is not impossible, but it is far less likely than "I was able to swim well yesterday".

    There are several exceptions to this, two being:

    1. In the negative, lack of ability to do something implies that you didn't do it, so there is very little, if any, difference between 'couldn't' and wasn't/weren't able to.'

    2. For verbs denoting the senses, such as see, hear, smell, taste, feel, we very often use 'can' when we would use a progressive form with other verbs:

    I am looking at the top of the mountain now and, oh yes - I can see the climbers.

    The past of this is 'could'.

  3. #3
    Verona_82 is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: could

    I've always wondered if 'could see/hear/feel etc' is the 'default' phrase. Do I understand it correcty that

    "I was looking at the hill carefully, and in the end I was able see a dim figure at the top' is just less common than 'I could see a figure' ?

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