Free English Grammar Lesson: Can, Could, Be Able To, & Was Able To

Free English Grammar Lesson- Can, Could, Be Able To, & Was Able To

You can see a lot of amazing building in NYC!

People who visit New York City can see some pretty amazing sights. They are able to see some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, dine at fine restaurants, and enjoy the best of Broadway. When I was younger I was able to see a musical for just $25, and a hot dog was just $1. Ah, the good old days.

Today I want to show you how we talk about ability in the present and the past. We use can, could, be able to, & was able to when we talk about ability in English. I think for most people, the present tense is easy to use and understand. I think we tend to use can when we talk about ability that we have because we have experienced, learned, practiced, or studied something

  • I can play the guitar.
  • Jack said he can cook.
  • Can you ride a motorcycle?
  • Danny can talk about history on and on. He’s an expert in it.

We also use can or be able to when we talk about our ability to do something when the conditions for doing so are favorable, and nothing is preventing us from doing that. Of course, we use the negative form when something is preventing us from doing something.

  • I am able to see Madison Ave from the window in my office.
  • I can see Madison Ave from the window in my office.
  • Jack said he’s not able to come to the party on Friday.
  • Jack said he can’t come to the party on Friday.

In a past sentence, we generally do not use could in a positive past tense sentence or question. It is more common to use was able to.

  • Luckily, I was able to find my wallet. Not, I could find my wallet.
  • Even thought I was tired, I was able to enjoy the party. Not, ~I could enjoy the party.
  • Were you able to help her with her homework? Not, Could you help her ~

However, in a negative past sentence, we use either couldn’t or wasn’t able to:

  • I looked, but I couldn’t find anything I liked at the store.
  • I looked, but I wasn’t able to find anything I liked at the store.
  • We couldn’t see David when we went to St. Louis.
  • We weren’t able to see David when we went to St. Louis.

Ok, now it’s your turn! How about trying your own original sentences using the comment box below?

If you know anyone who has trouble with this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!



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Free English Modal Verb Lesson: Must, Must Not, & Do Not Have To

I must get to the parking lot of the train station by 7:30am, otherwise I won’t get a parking spot. That parking lot fills up pretty quickly. There aren’t very many place to park near the train station. Even though there is a big parking lot for a nearby church, we must not park there. A lot of people who work later than I do have trouble finding a spot to park. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about that.

Today, I want to look at must, must not and do not have to. These can be confusing because the meanings are not as you may think. First, let’s look at must.

Must is used to show necessity. The grammar is must + base verb. Generally, when you must do something you have no choice:

  • When you fly, you must have a passport.
  • Drivers must stop at a red light.
  • You must have a library card if you want to borrow books.

The negative form of necessity is do not have to. The grammar is do not have to + base verb. You can use do not have to when you want to show what is not necessary:

  • When you take a train in the USA, you do not have to have a passport. Not, you must not have…
  • Drivers do not have to stop at a green light.
  • If you want to read a book in the library, you do not have to have a library card.

In English, must not is used to mean it is forbidden / it is not allowed / don’t do that, so the meaning is totally different from must. The grammar is must not + base verb.

  • You must not smoke in this building. It means, smoking is not permitted.
  • You must not drink and drive a car.
  • You must not talk loudly in the library.

Now, it’s your turn! How about trying your own original sentences using the comment box below!

If you know anyone who has trouble with this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!



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Get Happy English eBook for iPhone / iPad or Galaxy / Android or Amazon Kindle

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Basic English Grammar Lesson: Using Can

Can you help me?

Can you help me?

Can is a modal verb in English grammar, and has a few different meanings. Today, I am going to show you how we use can in both statements and questions.

Can is used to show ability. It comes before the main verb in a sentence.

  • I can sing and dance!
  • Jack can speak three languages.
  • This factory can produce 1,000 jackets per day.

Can is used to ask about ability. It comes before the subject in a question.

  • Can you sing and dance!
  • Can Jack speak any foreign languages?
  • Can this factory produce a lot of jackets?

Can is used to show permission. It comes before the main verb in a sentence.

  • I can leave work early today
  • Jack can take this old PC if he wants it.

Can is used to ask for permission. It comes before the subject in a question.

  • Can I leave work early today?
  • Can Jack take this old PC? He collects them!

Can us used in a question to make a request:

  • Can you help me?
  • Hey boss. Can Jack come to the meeting with me?
  • Can we have some more coffee, please?

Can us also used in a question to make an offer:

  • Can I help you with anything today?
  • Can I buy you a cup of coffee after work?
  • Can I take you to the movies sometime?

Now it’s your turn. How about trying to write an original sentence using good or well as I just explained above. Use the comment box below and I’ll check your answers.