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  1. beachboy's Avatar
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    #1

    be able to

    When somebody says I was able to go out last night does it necessarily mean the speaker did go out? Or only had the opportunity?


    • Join Date: Apr 2008
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    #2

    Re: be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by beachboy View Post
    When somebody says I was able to go out last night does it necessarily mean the speaker did go out? Or only had the opportunity?
    I think in this sentence 'was able' means that the speaker did go out.
    In another context it could mean both:
    e.g. I was able to pass the exam.

  2. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by beachboy View Post
    When somebody says I was able to go out last night does it necessarily mean the speaker did go out? Or only had the opportunity?
    Hello, beachboy!

    I'd like to give you some information from Practical English Usage(Michael Swan). On page 105 it says:

    3 past

    We use could for 'general ability' - to say that somebody could do something at any time, whenever he/she wanted.(Was/were able is also possible.)

    She could read when she was four. (OR She was able to read...)
    My father could speak ten languages.

    We do not normally use could to say that somebody managed to do something on one occasion. Instead, we use was/were able, managed or succeeded (in...ing).

    How many eggs were you able to get? (NOT ...could you get?)
    I managed to find a really nice dress in the sale. (NOT I could find...)
    After six hours' climbing, we succeeded in getting to the top of the mountain. (NOT we could get tothe top...)


    So...juding from the underlined part, your example could be interpreted as both. It really depends on the context, I guess.

    I'm not a native speaker of English, so please forgive me if I'm wrong.

  3. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    I think in this sentence 'was able' means that the speaker did go out.
    In another context it could mean both:
    e.g. I was able to pass the exam.
    Thank you, Clark.
    You were much faster.
    Yes, I agree with you. I think "was/were able to" is usually used to mean "manage to..." or "succeed in...ing.", for something that happened at a particular point in the past.(I mean...it is not used to mean 'general ability')


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    #5

    Re: be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    Thank you, Clark.
    You were much faster.
    Yes, I agree with you. I think "was/were able to" is usually used to mean "manage to..." or "succeed in...ing.", for something that happened at a particular point in the past.(I mean...it is not used to mean 'general ability')
    Doomo, Tzfujimino-san.
    Ogenki des ka?

    Which grammar book do you prefer: Swan's or Murphy's?

  4. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    Doomo, Tzfujimino-san.
    Ogenki des ka?

    Which grammar book do you prefer: Swan's or Murphy's?
    добрый день, Clark!
    Well, I've got both and....I love them both!


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    #7

    Re: be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    добрый день, Clark!
    Well, I've got both and....I love them both!
    Have you seen Hewings' grammar? What do you think of it?

  5. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    Have you seen Hewings' grammar? What do you think of it?
    Ah...he's the author of 'Advanced English Grammar in Use', isn't he?
    I think I have seen the book, but I've never read it.
    If I remember it correctly....it looks like Murphy's 'English Grammer in Use', doesn't it?
    Why do you ask? Do you find it questionable?


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    #9

    Re: be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    Ah...he's the author of 'Advanced English Grammar in Use', isn't he?
    I think I have seen the book, but I've never read it.
    If I remember it correctly....it looks like Murphy's 'English Grammer in Use', doesn't it?
    Why do you ask? Do you find it questionable?
    It comes very close to the level where the borderline between right and wrong is blurred. I heard Murphy refused to write a grammar for advanced learners when he was asked to. I find Hewings useful but my students say it turns their grammar upside down.

  6. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    It comes very close to the level where the borderline between right and wrong is blurred. I heard Murphy refused to write a grammar for advanced learners when he was asked to. I find Hewings useful but my students say it turns their grammar upside down.
    Really?
    Your comment has surely aroused my interest in the book.
    I think I'll check this one when the opportunity comes.
    Thank you for the information, Clark.

    P.S.
    Sorry for the digression, beachboy.

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