Go to Top

Could or able to?

We use could to talk about a general ability we had in the past. We use was/were able to to talk about an ability we had at a specific event in the past.

Three very old people are dressed as Superman, the Incredible Hulk and Cat Woman.

‘I could fly like a bird.’
‘I got angry and I was able to lift the car and throw it.’
’I was able to attract Batman with my cat-like eyes.’

We use could to talk about a general ability somebody had in the past.
• Superman could fly like a bird.
• He could speak German very well.

We use was/were able to to talk about an ability somebody had at a specific event in the past.
• The Incredible Hulk was able to lift the car and throw it during the fight with Godzilla.
• He was able to practice his German while we were in Berlin.

Remember: Could is general. Was able to is specific.
  • Exercise 1

    Remember: Could is general. Was able to is specific.

    Use could, couldn’t or was/were able to to complete each sentence.

    Remember: Could is general. Was able to is specific.

    Use could, couldn’t or was/were able to to complete each sentence.

  • Remember: Could is general. Was able to is specific.

    Sorry that I wasn’t able to come last week. I had a problem parking.

     Several uses are parked very close to either side of a car so the owners of the car are unable to open the doors.