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    #1

    A general or a specific ability

    Yesterday, I could lift the couch by myself. Not Correct
    http://www.englishpage.com/modals/could.html

    1. I could do it yesterday.
    2. I could raise the desk yesterday.

    My question is,
    Are 1&2 not correct? or on what occasions could they be correct?


    Many thanks.

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: A general or a specific ability

    I will be interested to hear from others. I see no problem with the original "incorrect" sentence from a grammar point of view.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #3

    Post Re: A general or a specific ability

    You might be interested in this thread, where the interchangeability (or lack of it) of "could" and "was/were able to" has partly been covered.

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    #4

    Re: A general or a specific ability

    I could see the back side of the moon.
    Thank you, Gillnetter.
    This seems to be a little off from the “could” I am going to learn because “could” can be used with “feel, hear, see, smell, taste” as well as “thinking, believe, decide, remember” to mean a one-time ability. This usage is not confusing for an ESL.

    Thanks also go to Mav for the link. However, the thread has "deepened" my confusion instead of clarifying anything. And that’s one of the readings that makes me the starter here.
    ---------------
    1. I could lift the couch by myself yesterday, but I didn’t. If I am asked, I can flex my muscles here.
    2. I could lift the couch by myself yesterday, and I was praised by my girlfriend then.
    I have no problem with sentence1.
    I don’t know whether sentence2 is correct, at least it is grammatical. However, I would use “was able to” rather than “could”. I feel in this case, “was able to” gives an implicitly of surprise.

    What do you think of sentence2 both in grammar and in its meaning? If it is wrong, could you please explain why, other than "one-time ability"?


    Thank you again.
    Last edited by henz988; 04-Dec-2011 at 07:11.

  2. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: A general or a specific ability

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I will be interested to hear from others. I see no problem with the original "incorrect" sentence from a grammar point of view.
    I agree, there's nothing wrong with it that I can see.

  3. 5jj's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: A general or a specific ability

    I thimk that if the the line had been: "Could" is not normally used in positive sentences in which you describe a momentary or one-time ability, it would have been closer to the truth.

    'Rules' containing such words as 'normally', 'generally', etc, are frustrating, but modals are notoriously difficult to pin down precisely.

    My own feeling is that we are more likely to use 'BE able to', 'managed to' or some other verb (phrase) than 'could' in affirmative sentences about a activities we actually carried out in the past.

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