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Modal Verbs of Ability

Perfect English Grammar

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When we talk about ability, we mean two things.

First, we mean general ability. This is something that once you have learned you can do any time you want, like being able to read or swim or speak a language, for example.

The other kind of ability is specific ability. This mean something that you can or can't do in one particular situation. For example, being able to lift something heavy, or find somewhere you are looking for.


can / can't (for both general and specific ability)


could / couldn't (for general ability) was able to / couldn't (for specific ability) could + have + past participle (an ability someone had in the past, but didn't use)


will / won't be able to (general ability) can / can't (specific ability)