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    #1

    can / is able to

    Your handwriting on the envelope is so illegible, I wonder whether the postman can / is able to read the address.

    Is the sentence correct? Should I use 'can' or 'is able to'?

    Many thanks.

  1. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: can / is able to

    They're both okay, though really it should be "will be able" to read...

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    #3

    Re: can / is able to

    Thanks, Konungursvia.

    I agree with you. I think 'can' denotes general ability. For example, I can swim.

    'Being able', I believe, refers to the ability to do something, eg on a particular occasion. For instance, By swimming very quickly, the lifeguard was able to rescue the drowning boy. I don't think we can use 'can' here.

    I don't know if my analysis makes sense to you.

    Thanks.

  2. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: can / is able to

    It does make sense to me, and you're right, but it's not because they really mean something different, it's that can has lost its various tenses, except "could" as a weak past tense, which we usually avoid in such situations because it resembles the present conditional could, which means will possibly. But in the present tense, can and to be able are very much the same. Able just comes from habilus (L) where can comes from Old English.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
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      • Hong Kong
      • Current Location:
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    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 2,333
    #5

    Re: can / is able to

    Thanks, Konungursvia.

    I would like to hear from other native speakers as well. So far I notice that quite often I hear from only one member.

    It would be good if more than one native speaker respond to members' queries.

    Thanks, again.

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