GYG Day 46. Can, could, be able.

Good morning, Titbitonians. I really CAN’T be bothered to trot out all the rules concerning when to use what. Indeed, my job is to (try to) package the grammar so that you enjoy reading the blog, you pick up some titbits (and new vocab. titbits to boot) along the way. Finally, I hope to inspire you to read more about it for yourself in your copy of ‘English Grammar in Use’ (EGIU) by Raymond Murphy (blue book for intermediate learners).

Haven’t you got one YET? Click on the affiliate link down below, go to Amazon, buy it and I’ll get a little commission (at no added cost to you!!!). The blatant ASK for your support is over – thanx 4 your understanding.

As I said at the outset, Murphy’s (my nickname for the EGIU book) is very thorough with all the rules. Let’s kick off with the KISS general stuff and then go into the “did you know section that?”. Feel free to (mentally) tick off what you knew and comment on what was new for you below!

KISS, we use CAN (‘be able to’ is less usual) to say something is possible (or allowed) and talking about ability. We use ‘could’ as the PAST form of ‘CAN’.

Let’s get into the ‘nitty gritty’, did you know that section:

1.In some tenses or after other modals, we use ‘be able to’ and not ‘can’.

“I haven’t been able to log in the system the last few days”  

“We might be able to get the issue fixed for you”.

2.We use ‘could’ for general ability in the past. However, we use ‘was/were able to’ to describe that somebody did something in a SPECIFIC situation, similar to ‘managed to’.

“When I was younger, I was an ace at squash. I could beat anyone” (GENERAL)

“I even once played the Sheffield city squash champion and was able to beat him” (SPECIFIC)

3.However, we can use ‘couldn’t’ to talk about ‘general’ as well as ‘specific’

“I played him a second time, but couldn’t beat him”.

4.We know that we can use ‘can’ and ‘could’ to talk about possible actions NOW or in the FUTURE (especially when we make suggestions), whereas ‘could’ is less sure than ‘can’. Did you know that we use ‘could’ (not ‘can’) for actions that are NOT realistic?

“I love this place, I could stay here forever”

5.Last but not least, we know all good things come in fives. ‘Could have (done)’* talks about the past. Did you know that we use ‘could have happened’** to say something was possible but did NOT happen?

*“Yesterday, I was so tired I could have slept all day”.

**”You could have really hurt yourself, luckily you didn’t.”

Mahatma Gandhi once said “There are 2 days in the year that we cannot do anything, yesterday and tomorrow.”

can’t be bothered to do sth” (keine Lust haben, etw zu tun), to trot sth out (etw auftischen), indeed (in der Tat), to boot (obendrein), commission (Provision), blatant (offensichtlich), at the outset (eingangs), thorough (gründlich), “Let’s kick off “ (Starten wir …), to tick off (abhaken), to get down to the nitty gritty (zur Sache kommen), issue (hier: Problem), to hurt oneself (sich verletzten).

Enjoyed the GYG so far? You could always get the Workplace English Toolkit (WET) NOW for just €9.99. Follow this link:

The WET is the allrounder business English book with

  • How to speak and write like a native section
  • GYG section
  • Mini – dictionary with copy & paste phrases section
  • Wonderful Websites for your working, learning & playing section

Remember: once bought, you get the updates for free, forever !!!!

Try out Grammarly Premium* today to get all your important English documents/mails corrected CORRECTLY.

*these are affiliate links, so if you buy the book through this link, I will receive a small commission and no extra cost to you. Thanx 4 your support.

Leave a Reply