Abilities and Possibilities

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Can you tell me the time?

What time is it?

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When we talk about abilities in English, we use two forms:

Can you tell me the time?
Are you able to tell me the time?

Look at some more:

Are you able to swim?
Can you swim?

Are you able to speak French?
Can you speak French?

Time and space are basic concepts. Events take place in space over a period of time. Time is expressed in periods or points. All sentences have a verb and all verbs are marked for time.

yesterday – today – tomorrow

before – now – later/later on

Present – Past – Future

I can – I could – I will be able to

I could means I was able to but I will be able to has no parallel form with I can.

I will can is an error!

I can speak English
I was able to speak English.

I could speak English.
I was able to speak English.

I will be able to speak English.
I will be able to do it after I finish my studies.

Abilities – Being Able to do Things

The idea of being able to do things is complex and there are many words to describe it in the English language.

The most basic verb to describe this function is “can”. Look at these examples:

I can speak a little English.
I can read English but I cannot speak it very well.
I could speak English when I was younger but I have forgotten a lot of it.

Verbs and Modals

Note that the verb “can” is a modal verb. That means when you add it to another verb, you do not need the preposition “to”. Look at these examples:

I want to improve my English.
I can speak some English.

I like to study.
I can study anywhere.

Note that the verb combination “like to study” has a “to” between the verbs “like” and “study”. The verb combination “want to improve” is the same. There is a “to” between the verbs “want” and “improve”.

Now look at the combinations “can speak” and “can study”. There is no preposition between the two verbs. This is because “can” is a modal verb.

Link

Do you like to study?

The Grammar of Modal Verbs

Modal verbs are a category of verbs which are added to other verbs. Look at this list of modal verbs (modals):

– I can hear something outside.
– You should go outside and have a look.
– It might be the cat.
– It may be a burglar.
– It could be the wind.
– I can hear a car. It must be my husband.
– Ok, I will go outside and have a look.

Note that in each case the verb combinations are not separated by the preposition “to”. Look:

Can hear
Should go
Might be
May be
Could be
Can hear
must be
Will go

Now compare these:

I want to travel more.
I have to save some money.
I like to travel but I don’t like to work.

The Preposition “to” with Verbs

In each case the verbs are separated by the preposition “to”:

Want to travel
Have to save
Like to travel

Can and Able

Can is the basic verb of ability but there is another verb phrase which expresses the same thing. Look at these variations:

I can swim quite well.
I am able to swim quite well.

I can speak a little French.
I am able to speak a little French.

Note that the word “able” is used in the phrase “am able to”.

The Adjective – Possible

Another way to express ability, in some situations, is with the adjective “possible”. Look at these phrases:

It is possible to learn English quite quickly if you go to an English-speaking country.
It is not possible to get a visa for some countries if you have a criminal record.
It is possible to travel quite cheaply if you arrange everything yourself.


Now look at these variations:

You can learn English quite quickly if you go to an English-speaking country.
You can not get a visa for some countries if you have a criminal record.
You can travel quite cheaply if you arrange everything yourself.

Word Family – Possibility

Let’s look at the word family of “possibility”:

Possible and Impossible – adjectives

– You can’t do that. It’s impossible.
– I can. I can ride a horse from Canada to South Amnerica!
– No, you can’t. It’s impossible.
– I think it is possible.

Possibility – A Noun

It is a physical impossibility. It cannot be done.

Possibilities – Noun Plural

– If you want to travel from Canada to South America, there are several possibilities.
– What are they?
– Well, you could travel by plane, or ship, or car .. or on horseback!
On horseback? Hmmm .. Is that possible?

Possibly – Adverb


These two phrases are the same:

I will possibly see you on the week-end.
I might see you on the week-end.

Listening

A Conversation about Traveling from Canada to South America on Horseback

Follow the Links to Study more Lessons Links
Speaking – Interactive Stories

The Grammar Page

The Tense Page

The Space Page

The Hour Page

The Day Page

The Week Page

The Month Page

The Year Page

The Metaphor Page

The Mathematics Page

Listening Activity – The Time page – Time Phrases – Living Overseas
Verbal Phrase Activity – Listen and select

World English Course

There are lots of things you can learn in the World English Course. There is a place where you can talk about work and there is also a place where you can find a job and a place where you can find staff. There is a place where you can have fun and there is a place where you can talk about food or family. There is also a place where you can talk about money or love or philosophy. You can study anything you want anytime you want. You can do it once a week or every day or any time you like. Have fun! Work hard! Tell your friends and family members! Enjoy!

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One Response to “Abilities and Possibilities”

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  1. Enow Tambe says:

    Please I need more lessons the site is so good I can wait to write more.More grace to your able

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