Ability, Possibility


We can use can/could to express general ability and typical behaviour of people or things

– Temperatures can rise to over 30°C in the summer.
– Employers can be unwilling to employ people over 50.
– My father could be very generous. (past)

We use can/be able to for present and future ability

– I can use a word processor but I can’t type very well.
– Will your parents be able to help you?
– I like being able to cook my own meals.

We use can for the future where there is a sense of opportunity

– I can come tomorrow if you like.
– You can practise your French when you go to Paris.

We use could/couldn’t to talk about general past ability

– I could swim before I could walk.
– Andrew’s father couldn’t get a job.

We use was/wasn’t able to talk about past ability in a specific situation

– Fortunately, he was able to swim to the shore.

We use could/couldn’t + perfect infinitive to talk about unfulfilled ability in the past

– I could have gone to university, but I decided not to.
– I couldn’t have been a ballet dancer. I was too tall.

Other expressions for ability

– Do you know how to type?
– He succeded in becoming a professional footballer at 18.
– We managed to find our way home. (suggests difficulty)

Modal verbs and expressions with similar meanings (Ability, Possibility)


We use can or could for theoretical possibility

Can there be life on Mars?
Can that be Peter over there?
– The weather could be better tommorow. (it’s possible)

We use may, might, could + infinitive to talk about likelihood in the present or future

– He may be in a meeting. (quite likely to be true)
– She might/could be here already. (less likely)

We use could/may/might + have + past participle (perfect infinitive) to talk about the possibility that past events happened

– His face was familiar. We may have met somewhere before.
– He’s not in the office. He might have finished work early.
– She could have been at the party, but I didn’t see her.

Ability, Possibility publicat: 2022-06-15T09:36:47+03:00, actualizat: 2022-06-15T10:03:09+03:00 by Colegiu.info