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Unit 26. Can, could and (be) able to
(использование оборотов can, could, (be) able to)

We use can to say that something is possible or that somebody has the ability to do something.
We use can + infinitive (can do / can see etc.): The negative is can't (= cannot): (Be) able to … is possible instead of can, but can is more usual: But can has only two forms, can (present) and could (past). So sometimes it is necessary to use (be) able to …. Compare: Could and was able to …
Sometimes could is the past of can. We use could especially with:
see   hear   smell   taste    feel   remember   understand We also use could to say that somebody had the general ability or permission to do something:
We use could for general ability. But if we are talking about what happened in a particular situation, we use was/were able to … or managed to … (not could):
  • The fire spread through the building quickly but everybody was able to escape.
    or … everybody managed to escape. (but not could escape)
  • They didn't want to come with us at first but we managed to persuade them.
    or … we were able to persuade them. (but not could persuade)
Compare:
  • Jack was an excellent tennis player. He could beat anybody. (= he had the general ability to beat anybody)

  • but
  • Jack and Alf had a game of tennis yesterday. Alf played very well but in the end Jack managed to beat him. orwas able to beat him. (= he managed to beat him in this particular game)

The negative couldn't (could not) is possible in all situations: See Unit 27. Could (do) and could have (done)
(использование оборотов could (do) и could have (done)).
See Unit 28. Must and can't
(использование оборотов must и can't).
See Unit 36. Can/ Could/ Would you …? etc. (Requests, offers, permission and invitations)
(использование оборотов Can/ Could/ Would you …?).
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