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  1. Mehrgan's Avatar
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    #1

    'As a child I wasn't able to swim.' Wrong?

    Hi all,

    This book, on grammar, suggests 'able to' cannot be used for a general ability in the past. Are the following sentences wrong then?

    1. As a child I wasn't able to swim.
    2. My sister wasn't able to spell very well when she was a child.


    This sounds too strict to me, as if I've heard these forms many times before.

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    #2

    Re: 'As a child I wasn't able to swim.' Wrong?

    The sentences are just fine.

    Please state the source which says they are not. 'This book, on grammar' is of no use as an attribution.

    Rover

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: 'As a child I wasn't able to swim.' Wrong?

    When I was preparing my (as yet unpublished) magnum opus on verbs, I looked into the idea that:

    I couldn't swim
    suggested that I lacked the ability, presumably because I had never learnt to swim, and
    I wasn't able to swim suggested that it was not possible for me to swim, perhaps because there was no swimming pool near my house.

    I found many examples to suggest that some people do use the verbs in this way. Unfortunately, I found quite a few examples to suggest that others don't. Modals, as F R Palmer once noted, are messy.

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