English as a Second Language (ESL) ExpertTESOL Diploma, Trinity College LondonM.A., Music Performance, Cologne University of MusicB.A., Vocal Performance, Eastman School of Music
Kenneth Beare is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher & course developer with over three decades of teaching experience.

Bạn đang xem: What is the difference between can, could and be able to?

"Can" và "Be able to" are both used to lớn speak about abilities, & the possibility of doing something. "Can" & "Be able to" are known as modal verbs in English.

Can for Abilities

She can play tennis.They could speak English at a very young age.Peter can type 100 words per minute.

Be Able to lớn for Abilities

My sister is able to lớn run a marathon.The students were able to lớn get an A on the test.We will be able to lớn attend the class next semester.

Can for Possibilities

Can you come to the buổi tiệc nhỏ next week?Do you think he can help with my homework?Peter told me he could pick you up at the airport.

Be Able to for Possibilities

We weren't able lớn get tickets lớn the concert.She'll be able lớn study for the demo tomorrow.Jack won't be able to lớn come for another three days.

Listed below are examples & explanations for can/could/be able khổng lồ for ability & permission in the past, present. Và future.


He can play tennis well.She is able khổng lồ speak five languages.They can come on Friday.Jack will be able khổng lồ come next week.

Use 'can' or 'be able to' khổng lồ express an ability or possibility

NOTE: The future of 'be able to' is 'will be able to

He could swim when he was five.

Could in the past means the general ability to vì chưng something.

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They were able to get tickets for the concert.

I was able to finish before 6.

I couldn't come last night, sorry. OR I wasn't able to come last night, sorry.

IMPORTANT: If someone was in the position to bởi vì something, or managed to vày something, we use 'was/were able to lớn instead of 'could'

In the negative,' wasn't able to' OR 'couldn't' are both correct.

Note: "Can" is also often used khổng lồ ask for permission, as well as "may":

Can I come with you? = May I come with you?

Practice Can/Be Able to lớn

Practice 'can' & 'be able to' with this role play. Once you've finished, ảo diệu some of your own dialogues and practice with a classmate or a friend. 

Peter: Hi Janet. Can you help me for a moment?Janet: Sure, what's up?

Peter: I'm not able lớn understand this math problem. Janet: Really. I think I can help, but I'm not that good at math.

Peter: You were able to lớn all the problems last semester, weren't you?Janet: Yes, that's right, but I can't bởi vì everything. Let me see. 

Peter: Here you go.Janet: Interesting, are you sure you're not able to bởi vì this?

Peter: Yes, that's why I'm asking for help!Janet: OK. After I explain this, you'll be able to vị without any problems.

Peter: Great. So what's the answer?!Janet: Don't be in a hurry. Can I have a few minutes lớn think?

Peter: Of course you can. Sorry. Janet: No problem. 

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Beare, Kenneth. "How to Use Can / Be Able To." suacuacuon.edu.vn, Aug. 26, 2020, suacuacuon.edu.vn/can-be-able-to-1211765.Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 26). How lớn Use Can / Be Able To. Retrieved from https://www.suacuacuon.edu.vn/can-be-able-to-1211765Beare, Kenneth. "How lớn Use Can / Be Able To." suacuacuon.edu.vn. Https://www.suacuacuon.edu.vn/can-be-able-to-1211765 (accessed February 15, 2023).
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