Language Refresher 95: Can, Could vs Be able to

English Language Centres gave the following rules that will help us learn how to use can, could vs be able to. 


Source: Pixabay



1. Can

Is used to talk about possibility. e.g. ‘Can you meet me at 5?’

Is used to talk about ability. e.g. ‘I can ride a bike’. 

Is used to make informal requests and orders. e.g. ‘Can you bring me my jumper?’

Has two negative forms,. can’t and cannot.


2. Could

Is used to talk about past abilities. e.g. ‘When I was a child I could do handstands’.

Is used to make formal requests. e.g. ‘Could you fax me that document by Tuesday?’ 

In the negative form, is couldn’t.

3. Be able to

Is sometimes used instead of can or could.

Can be used with all tenses. e.g. ‘I will be able to see you next week’. 

Is used to talk about ability. e.g. ‘Are you able to write formal letters?’



To read more about this topic, please click here: Lesson by Caroline Devane, English Language Centres


To take the quiz, please click here.



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