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

Unit 26; Part A

galka.jpgWe use can to say that something is possible or allowed, or that somebody has the ability to do something.
We use can + infinitive
(can do / can see etc.):
    We can see the lake from our bedroom window.
•    \'I haven\'t got a pen.\'   \'You can use mine.\'
    Can you speak any foreign languages?
•    I can come and see you tomorrow if you like.
    The word \'play\' can be a noun or a verb.

The negative is can\'t
(= cannot):
    I\'m afraid I can\'t come to the party on Friday.

Unit 26; Part B

galka.jpgYou can say that somebody is able to do something, but can is more usual:

We are able to see the lake from our bedroom window.

But can has only two forms: can
(present) and could (past). So sometimes it is necessary to use (be) able to. Compare:
    I can\'t sleep. 
    Tom can come tomorrow.
Maria can speak French, Spanish and English.             
•    I haven\'t been able to sleep recently.
•    Tom might be able to come tomorrow.
•    Applicants for the job must be able to speak two foreign languages.

Unit 26; Part C

Sometimes could is the past of can. We use could especially with:

see       hear        smell        taste        feel        remember       understand

    We had a lovely room in the hotel. We could see the lake.
    As soon as I walked into the room, I could smell gas.
•    I was sitting at the back of the theatre and couldn\'t hear very well.

We also use could to say that somebody had the general ability or permission to do something:

•    My grandfather could speak five languages.
•    We were totally free. We could do what we wanted.
  (= we were allowed to do)

Unit 26; Part D

galka.jpgCould and was able to
We use could for general ability. But if you want to say that somebody did something in a specific situation, use was/were able to or managed to (not could):

    The fire spread through the building very quickly, but fortunately everybody was able to escape / managed to escape (not could escape)
    We didn\'t know where David was, but we managed to find / were able to find him in the end.  (not could find)

           Mike was an excellent tennis player when he was younger. He could beat anybody.

        (= he had the general ability to beat anybody)
but    Mike and Pete played tennis yesterday. Pete played very well, but Mike managed to beat him.
        (= he managed to beat him in this particular game)

The negative couldn\'t
(could not) is possible in all situations:
•    My grandfather couldn\'t swim.
    We looked for David everywhere, but we couldn\'t find him.
    Pete played well, but he couldn\'t beat Mike.


flag.jpgComplete the sentences using can or (be) able to. Use can if possible; otherwise use (be) able to.
Key.3    can
4    be able to
5    been able to
6    can
7    be able to

1    Gary has travelled a lot. He    can    speak five languages.
2    I haven\'t   been able to   sleep very well recently.
3    Nicole ___________ drive, but she hasn\'t got a car.
4    I used to ___________ stand on my head, but I can\'t do it now.
5    I can\'t understand Martin. I\'ve never ___________ understand him.
6    I can\'t see you on Friday, but I ___________ meet you on Saturday morning.
7    Ask Catherine about your problem. She might ___________ help you.
flag.jpgWrite sentences about yourself using the ideas in brackets.
Key.Example answers:
2 I used to be able to run fast.
3 I\'d like to be able to play the piano.
4 I\'ve never been able to get up early.

1    (something you used to be able to do)
         I used to be able to sing well.   
2    (something you used to be able to do)
      I used _________________________
3    (something you would like to be able to do)
      I\'d _________________________
4    (something you have never been able to do)
      I\'ve _________________________
flag.jpgComplete the sentences with can/can\'t/could/couldn\'t + the following:
Key.2    could run
3    can wait
4    couldn\'t eat
5    can\'t hear
6    couldn\'t sleep

come       eat       hear       run        sleep        wait
1    I\'m afraid I   can\'t come   to your party next week.
2    When Tim was 16, he ____________ 100 metres in 11 seconds.
3    \'Are you in a hurry?\'    \'No, I\'ve got plenty of time. I ____________.\'
4    I was feeling sick yesterday. I ____________ anything.
5    Can you speak a little louder? I ____________ you very well.
6    \'You look tired.\'    \'Yes, I ____________ last night.\'
flag.jpgComplete the answers to the questions with was/were able to ... .
Key.2    was able to finish it
3    were able to find it
4    was able to get away

1    A: Did everybody escape from the fire?
      B: Yes, although the fire spread quickly,     everybody  was able to escape   
2    A: Did you finish your work this afternoon?
      B: Yes, there was nobody to disturb me, so I _______________________________
3    A: Did you have-difficulty finding our house?
      B: Not really. Your directions were good and we _______________________________
4    A: Did the thief get away?
      B: Yes. No-one realised what was happening and the thief _______________________________
flag.jpgComplete the sentences using could, couldn\'t or managed to.
Key.4    couldn\'t
5    managed to
6    could
7    managed to
8    could
9    managed to
10  couldn\'t

1    My grandfather travelled a lot. He   could   speak five languages.
2    I looked everywhere for the book, but I   couldn\'t   find it.
3    They didn\'t want to come with us at first, but we   managed to   persuade them.
4    Laura had hurt her leg and _________ walk very well.
5    Sue wasn\'t at home when I phoned, but I _________ contact her at her office.
6    I looked very carefully and I _________ see somebody in the distance.
7    I wanted to buy some tomatoes. The first shop I went to didn\'t have any, but I _________ get some in the next shop.
8    My grandmother loved music. She _________ play the piano very well.
9    A girl fell into the river, but fortunately we _________ rescue her.
10  I had forgotten to bring my camera, so I _________ take any photographs.

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