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    • Join Date: Feb 2009
    • Posts: 88
    #1

    Exclamation can vs be able to

    Hello there.

    I would like to know what is the difference between "be able to" and "can".

    Which is more useful on a daily basis?


    Thank you.

  1. mara_ce's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Spanish
      • Home Country:
      • Argentina
      • Current Location:
      • Argentina

    • Join Date: Jun 2009
    • Posts: 6,067
    #2

    Re: can vs be able to

    can/could/be able to (ability and possibility)

    Can is a modal verb. It only has a present, past, and conditional form (but can also be used with a future meaning).

    I can speak Spanish very well.
    She could play the violin when she was three.
    She can't come tonight. She's ill.
    They couldn't wait because they were in a hurry.
    Could you open that door, please?

    You can use be able to in the present, past, future, present perfect, and as a gerund or infinitive.
    be able to in the present and past is more formal than can and could.

    I am able to accept your invitation.
    They weren't able to come.
    I'll be able to practise my English in London.
    She has been able to speak French since she was a child.
    I'd like to be able to ski.
    I love being able to sleep late at weekends.

    Modals - Can
    Modals - Could
    Modals - Be able to


    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 2,036
    #3

    Re: can vs be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by gchman View Post
    Hello there.

    I would like to know what is the difference between "be able to" and "can".

    Which is more useful on a daily basis?


    Thank you.
    It's simpler and more direct to use "can". Using "be able to" can sound more formal.

    Compare:

    I am not able to answer your call now.
    I can't answer your call now.

    It's not possible to express ability using the present perfect with "can". You have to use "be able to".

    Have you been able to contact Eric at Universal Electronics?

    I've been trying, but I haven't been able to talk to him. I left a message.
    Last edited by PROESL; 14-Sep-2009 at 03:29.

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