In this English lesson, I look at how to use “can”, “could”, and “be able to”, when talking about ability. The ESL lesson explains which term is appropriate, depending on if you’re talking about the past, present, or future.
Learn English for free with 1922 video lessons by experienced teachers. Classes cover English grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, IELTS, TOEFL, and more. Join millions of English learners worldwide who are improving every day with engVid.
Learn English for free with 1922 video lessons by experienced teachers. Classes cover English grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, IELTS, TOEFL, and more. Join millions of English learners worldwide who are improving every day with engVid.
I think it’s good, I’m watching again :)
thans Alex ..
Krystal clear! “Be able to” refers to specific events in the past and can be used to express present or future events as well.
Oh, Gosh!!! Making mistakes as always . . .
I wanted to make my meaning CRYSTAL clear ,
but . . . this happened.
really it’s very good, thinks
Hi Alex it’s really very good vedio..i like your all lesson..and your teaching metod is very good.
Really its great and intresting.
I lone it.
Thanks a million.
Mohammed Osman Khan
Riyadh,Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia.
;-( its difficult
this is not too difficult if you try to understand it with all your effort.If you don´t understand it watch the video again.
Hi Alex Its really very important for us who is learning
I could watch hundred time .. Or I can watch onetime for day
I don’t give up
see you Alex
Very nice lesson and interesting too. It’s was very useful to me.
good evening Sir,
I like your lesson. But i wonder how i can distinguish clearly their usage.
Can you do me a favour, Sir? i have a question. Can you use conversation to teach advanced grammar?
Please give me a hand at once.
i hope to hear from you soon.
I should have some new grammar lessons soon. Thanks for watching.
I am very to watch your video and I learn alot from it…
Um hi I am new and I got all correct after seeing some videos I had finial not being shy and learn English much faster. Thanks you very much. I will invite more people to come to websit.
Thanks you so much, that it help me alot to understand English.
thanks alex for the lesson
I could understand the lesson,can you Alex to say more about be able to?
Thanks a lot Alex!
I got 100% in the quiz, but I can’t catch the idea about the last sentence I was able to win the spelling bee but not I could win the spelling bee. And what is spelling bee?
A spelling bee is a competition where people test their spelling skills.
You must say “I was able to” because winning the spelling bee was a very specific achievement in the past. Here are some more examples:
“I was able to win the race.”
“They were able to beat the other team.”
“We were able to finish the test on time.”
If it is something specific that you completed, you must use “be able to.” You only use “could” in the past when talking about your ability to do something. Here are some examples:
“I could read at the age of five.”
“My friends could speak English before me.”
Again, you can always use “be able to” for the examples above as well, but you can’t always use “could” if you’re talking about a very specific achievement.
Thanks a lot. I am also clear now. Excellent explanation with good example.
Yes, now I get it too :)
Yeah, your video is very short to explain to me understand the last sentence.
So, with your above answer make me understand more
Thank you so much!
Thanks Mr Alix
Oh, now I get it!
I did not understand this as well, but the new examples and the explanation helped a lot. My question is if this works for the future too. For example, “I will be able to win the contest if I study harder.”
Besides, if I say “I could help you with that tomorrow, if you want” is wrong? I am not sure, but I guess I heard something like that before.
Thanks for the lesson!
why you said”we are able to finish the test on time” and not said”we are able to finish the test on the time” ? there is different?!
Cool. Thank you.
thank you very much sir….
hi alex that was a great lesson. i have a request can you please explain to me the difference about the words DO and DOES ca you give some example. thanks and more power to engvid.
hi how r you this is a good lesson
Thank alex, and the reply to Alena’s answers, complete this clearly lesson. You’re very good professor !
Thank you very much…
Can I use able to in futur.
Examples:I am able to test tomorrow.
Thanks a lot Alex!
“I’m always able to finish my homework during the mornings.” I’m also thinking like you and this makes sense to me. I hope I’m not confusing anybody’s mind.
you can say
I will be able to take test tomorrow
tell me about the form of verb we use with can,could and able to.
Thank you Alex
This is definitely a great site to learn English! :)
thanks a lot alex!!!
Is this correct?
–I wasn’t able to come online yesterday because…
Thanks a lot Alex!!Useful lesson
Thanks. Your explanations are clear and simple.
I just wonder.What is the difference in meaning between. can and be able to when we use them.
Hi Alex Your videos are very nice. thanks
very much for videos & these are helping me a lot.
Thanks allot Alex it is very helpfull
hmm.. interesting! i like this. tnx 4 diz.. :))
It’s very good but I’ve still confused using ” be able to ” and ” able to ” could u plz explain me more? Thank u for advance
I have a suggestion about the quiz. In question number 3 the sentence tells me to use one of the options for the future, but I paid attention to the sentence and it says only “morning” not “tomorrow morning” nor “tomorrow in the morning” for future. I think I’d rather use “Will be able to” for future. What about “I can do my homework in the morning”? Is this how we should refer to the future? I’d rather say, “I can finish my homework tomorrow morning.” :)
thanks lot it was amazing and helped me a lot to clear my doughts once again thansk a lot
thank alex u are good teacher realy its easy and useful lesson byeeeeeee
Great! I am looking for different structure of english language like could, should, can’t help & so many others. Could you please help me out in this regards……………..Hats off, you are really one of the greatest teacher in your team.
i was not much more different than the other grammars that i knew
thanks!! your video help me
Thanks for the lesson,but I couldn’t catch up the last.
Thank you Mr.Alex,
it is very useful to all beginners.
that’s really a good way to learn english more perfectly.
hey man how are u thanks a bundle
Thanks for all these useful lessons.
Thanks Sir Alex for lesson.
Are ”be able to” only use when winning somethig(specific achievement)??
i am able to drive.
i also can use ”i could&can drive ”.Am i right ??
”Be able to”can use same as can & could ??
Hei thanks for the lesson but i would like to add pronounciation of regular verbs ed
Very good lesson,thanks Alex.It helps me a lot with my english learning.
Can you do a favour for me? Can you suggest some points to be followed while attending an interview? I know my question is irrelevant to this topic, but I don’t know any other source to communicate with you other than this. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!
This is a good idea! I will keep it in mind for a future lesson. I am sure that there are many other people who have similar questions, especially about Western culture and how to act in an English interview.
This is a very clear lesson and helpful. Thanks, Alexs.
hi teacher can u tell slowly because when u speak quickly i can not understand thanks u
I will try to speak slower for beginners. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Alex I want to ask question : does could in this lesson means used to? if not why?…………and I have another question in this sentence “there used to be people in the house” so in tag question cold I say “didn’t there?” if not why?………and thank you very much because you are really excellent teacher keep it up.
“used to” talks about past habits or behaviours that you did over a period of time. “Could” just talks about a general ability you had at one point in your life.
“I used to read novels” and “I could read novels” have very different meaning. The first sentence means that you had a habit of reading novels, but that you probably don’t read novels anymore. The second sentence means that you had the ability to read novels, but that you no longer have the ability. As you can see, the meanings here are very different.
Oh! and that I don’t understand!
I thought I was not so stupid,but now I doubt it….. ((
thanks sir for your comment
thank you alex
this is a very clear lesson.
hi Alex how are you ?
can you give me a lesson about adjective,adverb,noun and verb .because i Found it hard . very much . what about your opinion Alex ?
please Alex replay me .
buy buy buy .
Good day sir Alex your quizzes are all good and you really think about it before you post it here. I hope you understand my english kindly correct it and i will appreciate it. this comment is also my practice. Thanks a lot.
Dear Alex! If you have the text of your lesson, could you send it on my e-mail – vadimchan[ a t ] mail [ d o t ] ru, if you want and please.
Hi, Alex. It’s so splendid to be in communication with you. But I wanna ask you, which is correct:
No problemS or No problem? And why?
Thank you for your reply!
hi Alex, well this is really good.
sir ur method of teaching is so cool
Thanks! I’ve never heard that before!
THE WAY YOU DELIVER THE WORD.ITS SELF IS AMAGING
BECAUSE OF LEARNED A lot thank alex and your friends tooooooooooooo
god bless you
from vinod yadav
i generally show my students your videos to teach english them
thank you alex
IT’s Really good
i still comfusing these words: work, task, job, so Mr Alex,can you make the lession talk about them, okay?
hmm. i still don’t understand…’able to’..is about past or future?or it can be use both…and when to use was or were or be when to say able to..
You can use “able to” in the past, present, and future.
“I was able to read when I was 5 years old.”
“I am able to read.”
“I will be able to drive a car next year, when I am 16.”
“Can” is only for the present, and “Could” is only for the past, when talking about ability.
Nice teacher.i like your examples.
thanks for helping us.
why is difficult?
I would like to ask you about this sentence
I am sorry for being late in writing to or for writing to you.
You are gr8 (great) teacher!!!!
sir how i wish we were just neigborhood ur magnifico!!!!
Alex, please do the lesson “When to use ‘ly’ ending at the end of adjective!” For example beautiful-beautifully, slow-slowly etc.
thanks you very much, I´m improving in my english too much,thanks Alex.
help me guys,
where and hen do I use have been, has been, had been…
Use “have been” and “has been” with the present perfect tense, which is usually used to talk about life experience.
“I have been to China.”
“She has been to many concerts.”
It changes from “have” to “has” depending on the subject. Remember, third person subjects are followed by “has” and not “have.”
You can also these two forms with the present perfect continuous/progressive tense.
“I have been sitting on my computer for three hours.”
“He has been studying for thirty minutes.”
“Had been” is similar, except that you use it with the past perfect, which is considered the past in the past.
“I had been angry at my friend for a long time, but she bought me a nice gift and we made up.”
“We had been at the club for three hours before the music started to get good.”
I hope this helps!
thanks for your explication,you are very clear .you help me a lot.
hi ,how are you doing ,iam really takling and my hart it want to get out for its funny , becouse iam writing to the best teacher is alex,well iam feeling great at english , but i changed , iam still not as already,watever i cant handle my selfe. ican lesten music english,exactly english of amreca in first it seems to me harder but with time, i start undestanding anything , but i woukd love to get more with your teach,and i shoud be patient for get better,please following in this way ,you are doing great with us thank you for all things
Sorry Alex can’t get understand your last explication about the phrase I was able to win the spelling bee. I can use could in this frase.
hi very good lesson and clear thankyou.
Hi Alex Thanks for good lesson and explanation
thanks a lot Mr alex is the lesson very great
hi alax i don’t know how to use prepositon.will teach me how to use prepositon?
Hello Alex, it realy amazing for me
I could not have taken an idea from any where befor watching this video
thank…Alex.It’s so awesome lesson
plz tell me if this sentence is right
one has broken his arm or their arm
hi alex..thanks for the great lesson i’m just have something to clarify.. of using can could and be able to ..for example my friend asking me to hang out with here.but i can’t because i have something to do.should i use sorry i couldn’t go out with you or..sorry i can’t be able to go out with you..
Your lessons are excellent for me.I can speak english, but for example – I used in every situation can and I never distinguished:can,could,may and (do u mind, if I borrow your book). You are very sympatic and you have very good feeling for teach-interpret and you cover all the bases which are exactly formulate and explained. You mean for me very big help in my study.Thank you Alex.Anna (czech)
Hello Alex.. I’m very happy..Because it i s very help full in my poor English Knowledge……Thanks…
i can’t open the quiz :(
thank a lot ขอบคุณมาก
thank you very much ขอบคุณมากๆๆๆ
thank you so much. This is very good.
I tried to understand,but i could not(<-! :))…
for which this expression "be able to"? test I went good, but it does not matter… I think.
“be able to” means the only chance some of their capabilities?
Thanks Alex alot,this lesson is good
Great work man … thanx..!!
your a good teacher.
Beautiful explanation teacher, you keep the quality of your lessons
thanks for your help
What’s the difference between to wear and to use?
Thank you very much sir.
Thank you so much,It is very simple
I hope more quiz
alex is the best mate,nobody is better than alex
i like you Alex! And i can understand you easily.
Thank you Alex!..it was a very good lesson.
P.s. There should have more question at the end. Isn’t? :)
One of the simplest lessons!!!
You can explain very simply! I was able to understand this Lesson! It is win for me! Thank a Lot!
hi Alex How are you?
I’m very glad to wacth your video lesson cos it can explain me a lot of grammer.
thank you alex.i am algerian iunderstand alot of thing.:)
alex all your lessons are very useful interesting please make lessons about all modal verbs and how to use all their forms I want to learn all details of these verbs thanks a lot for your very important lessons
hi teacher alex!!,,
i would like to learn more about english in now im here in canada for work and ofcoure i want to settle my family here….what can u recommend me to make good or right english speaker?…what and where can i start to be a great/good speaker? which part of speech that could be able to study? its ok for me to start as a beginner…. i grab this opportunity to learn more from you…..your so great teacher… may god bless you more…..this is my email: firstname.lastname@example.org,,,,thnk you so much
hi Alex firstly i would like to thank you for this wonderful lesson .
ALEX i have a query about using could in present tense , suppose some one ask me ” can you help me making some food ” and my ans would be i could help you if you give me some money ”
i don’t know if i am right or wrong but from my point of view the question and the answer both are in the present tense .so i am confused whether to use these type of sentences or not, or there is a possibility that the sentences i have used could be wrong .
pleas help !!!!!!!
hey sir! thanks 4 lesson …..but i don’t understand “could” means when to use it.
Is it only used with past tense or are there some exception ..so please may u explain it a little more.
hi sir! thanks 4 the lesson..it’s really good.i don’t understand the use of “COULD”.my question is that is it only used to express past abilities or there are some exception?
i have heard that it can be used with future abilities.Is it correct.
please explain it(could) a little more.i’m really confused.
YES Teacher, thanks, now i watching , very good explanation , now i can improve my engish , GOD BLESS U
I love your lesson. It’s very interesting. Thanks.
i love to watch the videos and i am very happy because of this i can improve my English i love all the teacher
Alex tu sei un bravo insegnante (you are a very good teacher)
Andre, an Indonesian, stay in Rome
Hi Sir Alex, One more thing would like to ask you that how to improve accent in English I want to learn British, American accent please do let me know about the same will wait for your kind reply?thnx faisal Khan from India
teaching this topic is really challanging using inductive technique
Thank you very much, Alex, from Russia with love :)
interesting teaching type thnak you (Sri Lanka)
the lesson was interesting and helpful
i love it
Why sometime when we talk about present we use could for example. Could you give me your pen please???
Your lesson is very educational. Terrific!
good afternoon sir,it is my first day to see your video ….i am understand all you teach. but sir when i go in front of crowd and to speak in english i forget and have fearness..may plese help me
alex you are the best teacher,,,please say hi for me
It would be better for me if you didn’t write “blank” questions on the board
Sir I have a doubt..I have heard that Could is used for past ability that we can’t do now.eg. I could climb the tree when i was a child…(that I could n’t now.).and my question is , Can we say…” I could reach in office before 10 a.m.”..mean to say I was able to reach in the office before 10 a.m ….please reply me
Great work Alex , really it’s helpful.
thank u 4 ur ————-
so we can never use “can” in the future ?
Q; Can use 4 ability if v say that i can’t see. it meanz r ability finished 4 few time? i think ability can not be finish 4 few time and after few time it come back automatcally. lol
I listen 4om some where, in this case v should use needn’t instead of can’t , is it true?
i m w8ing ur reply. if i made mistake in grammar plz check it out.
Thanks Mr Alex
it could help me..:)
ur lesson can improve my knoledge…
i am able to know how to use those words…:)
love u alex….muuuahhh
you are my GURU
sir! whats the exect meaning of literally?
“Literally” means according to the plain meaning of the words—it’s the opposite of “figuratively” (like a a figure of speech or an idiom). For example, “I have butterflies in my stomach” doesn’t mean someone literally has insects inside them; it means “I’m feeling anxious”.
However, people commonly use “literally” as an intensifier to emphasize what they’re saying — for example, There is literally nothing left. It would mean the same thing without “literally”, but it gets someone to pay more attention to what you are saying.
We even use “literally” as an intensifier when we are using a figure of speech. So if someone says “I literally have butterflies in my stomach” they probably just mean they are really, really anxious…unless you have just seen them eating a butterfly, that is!
very informative and explanatory. Tnx
Thank you alex. Best regard
thank for teacher Alex!
my score 75% thanks
Thanks Alex…i got 4/4
Thnks alex It humble me a lot these of kinds lesson you have ever made. more power
Try visiting the site using Firefox or Chrome!
Hi alex since i’ve got this site its really helpful for me however i’ve don spoken and written english as well as i’ve been studing subject coures at TAFE but still i have a bit of hassles about grammer so i’m trying to complete it from this site and the end i have to say thank you for waste your time for us
thanks again mate
sir i didnt get the last sentence..I was able to win the spelling bee..can u explain me more ?
Very Nice Lesson Sir, now i am able to make sentence with confidence.. I like to watch your lesson so much.. thanks you once again…Please Upload More More Lesson which will good for us..
Thank you for all lessons .
thank you for your lesson. I have a big doubt about COULD. I mean… I always used it to indicate the possibility in the future tens too. I coud marry me (maybe, I don’t know if I do it). I hope you can understand my question and give me your point of viene about it. Thank you in advance. Luca
in the test there is a question but ı can’t understand it i thing its 3 question.It writes future and you say could.Why?
Got 4/4. Thanks, Sir!
My first time here, and I think that you are great guys! I’ll keep learning with you. Thanks a lot!
Hi, Alex! Thanks for this lesson.
I have just watched this video and I have a question, I can say I was not able to catch the bus but I can not say I couldn’t catch the bus am I right?
Thanks Allex for such good explanation …everything understood…
What’s the different between these senteces? Please help!
1. I was able to read when I was 5 years old.
2. I could read when I was 5 years old.
These 2 sentences are correct and they have the same meaning. If you have any other questions write me at my email: email@example.com
Thank you so much!
Thanks for your lesson. Can you give us a procession? I think it will be better for us.
thanks alex… your video lesson about english tutorial are so … i want to read more to enhance my own knowledge specially using english grammar.. thank you..
Thank you Mr. Alex. Have a great day.
This lesson is very useful, how to others, thanks. :)
Thaks Alex. There is no more doubt about as use; can, could and mainly able to.
I watched all Emma´s videos, now I will see yours.
This is really good. I always used it wrong.
Alex, you are the 1st teacher that make me understand about grammar.
I love your classes.Thanks a lot.
Thank you very much
thank you very much alex
i like if you have any english grammar books please send me on my email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, Alex! You are the best! Nice explanation!
Thank you so much for these very useful lessons Sir Alex. It really helps me a lot. God Bless:)
I had watch your 24 videos about grammar for beginners. I usually post comments for the last video. Again thank you so much!
My doubts about “Able to” is over!!!
Alex obrigado!( thank you in Portuguese)
thank you Alex !
thanks a lot for your lesson.
I think EngVid helps me very much and my English is better and better
Excellent explanation with good example.Thank you
I just want to thank you Alex and the rest of the teachers on engvid. Continue to bless the world using your gifts in teaching. God bless !
I confius about be able to
My names is sebas.. There are 3 things, i can play videogames. i could eat a apple,i can run in the street, I cant sleep in the day. I cant play instruments, I cant go to the forest
My name is Maya, I can draw,I can sing, I can dance K-pop, I can’t dance salsa, I can’t cook, I can’t speak chinese.
My name is Ariadna. I can see movie, I can read and listen to music. I could jump.
My name is Rosario, I can swim in the smming pool, I can do tricks on the bike, I can the cook.
I can’t get on a skateboarding, I can’t cook, I can’t roon
My name is Marcelo, I’ll able to speak English fluenty until the final of 2015!
Thanks a lot for this lesson Alex, You are a great teacher!
thanks you :)
Thank Alex very much…
Can i ask you a question, please? There isn’t any difference between “can” and “be able to” in the present and future tense? i mean that we can use both in any case?
im very happpy i got 100
It is will be very great if you could add more examples in the Quiz.
hi, every one, I am a teacher in technologie if someone would some english conversation, I am ready on facebook, first there is my e-mail Moez_be@yahoo.fr, i expect your message, thanks
i like it !
hi Alex.thanks a lot.you really helped me by your speed of speaking while i was at the beginning of learning.i am waiting for another nice lesson of you.
i wish all the best for you
I do not understand the last question of Quize
thank a lot
ı got 4/4 ı understand (able to for past and for future but ı couldnt understand when we use present,when we prefer able to…pls tell me when I have to use able to
O Yes i got 4/4 ;)
Great i got perfect 4 in this quiz .It`s awesome.
i like it.thank you..
Thank you Alex for helped me, i’m so glad.
Not bad. Thank you so much Alex
I feel like no one really says “I am able to swim”. When people talk about physical ability, they always use “can”….?? I am a bit confused because I think that’s how I learned the difference between CAN and BE ABLE TO in high school. I am sure it is not wrong to say “I am able to swim”, but do people usually use this form?
great lesson :)
100 percent thanks Alex
thanks .. you are great
Thank you so much for your interesting lessons. Can and could are used to talk about the ability for doing something in the present and future. But when we use ” was able to” or”could”. I think we use could when we talk about the whole ability to do something, and “was able to” when we managed to do something in one situation by chance.For example ,yesterday there was afire in my house,and my young daughter was able to scape from the window.
Does could the past forme of can?
Thanks Alex. It’s very useful when there are describing reason for any question. Any questions should available reason.
thanks Alex! but i have a question! we can use “be able to” in past, present and future right? so why will i know i should say “be able to” or “can” if i speak in present?!
I wanna to know
when can I use “can” and “be able to” ? and what’s the diffirent between them?
Thanks for lesson
Thank you so much, like always very useful.
I’d like to have the ability to speak English very well.
If I should study English hard, I will be able to speak English very well some day.
Until then, I’ll keep going.
I can speak english (future)ha ha ha
Hahaha nice try, 1 mistake :))
Hi Alex. First of all let me apologise for commented on this “old” video. Maybe SO already pointed this out, but can’t COULD also be used in future as in “I could help you tomorrow if you promise to buy me a drink”?. Thanks & greets from Argentina.
Thank you alex.. It is very useful…
For Q4 can we also say “I am able to do my homework tomorrow” (as well as I can do my homework tomorrow).
Hi Alex, I like your teaching style.I want to know,can we use WILL BE ABLE TO for prediction?
I hope, she will be able to win the race.
I hope, she will win the race.
thank alexty great lesson
How are you? I hope, you will fine.
Actually I want to ask a question, You said “could” use in the past, but mostly people use this in the present,even you also use this word in the present like; you could say” . I have a major difficulty with this world, please solve my problem
I got 3/4. Thanks for the lesson!
Hello Alex ! could is used in conditional too? and when people say : ” Could you tell me….? could you give me …? is this wrong?
Dear Alex….Thanks for such wonderful sessions/lessons. I am delighted to share that I have completed the ‘intermediate’ level. lesson on idioms and phrasal verbs reinforcement will be done before this weekend:))) Thank you very much!!!
hi alex, you said a phrase, “as morbid as”, what is it mean. can you explain please
Your are the best
Thanks, sir! This was a very simple lesson, however, it was very useful at the same time, thanks again!
thank you very much my teacher Alex
thank’s so much my teacher alex
Thanks again Alex!
very welll ths lesson, but I have a doubt, I do not understand when I used ¨be able to¨
This is an example for the last sentences
I was able to get the medal of basketball
Dear this is correct or not please reply to me
That was a useful lesson. Thanks
Thank you. It was a very helpful lesson
thank you teacher for all.
Thank you so much.
i was confusing about the use of can and could but now
i’m able to understand. thanks
Thank you! I`ve got 4/4.
thank you!!! great class!!!
Thank you! Sir, Can you do some examples of “be able to”?
Hi Alex, You are my favourite teacher on engvid website. Thank you for your useful lessons.
Hello, please could you answer me? Is there sorting for english beginner level about the topic? I want to put in order its.Thank you. email@example.com
No, you can watch the videos in any order!
Thank you Mr. Alex.
thank you very much for lesson ,I have a question , you said that we can use “be able to ” in any tense only when we talk about specific achievement right?
Thank you for the lesson. Now I can differentiate the uso of them.
thank you very much
I watched this video twice on May 22, 2021, and I took the quiz after watching it once. I got four correct out of 4.
I watched this video one more time on June 11, 2021, and took the quiz after watching it. I got four correct out of 4.
i was able to answer to the quiz
Its very interesting
thank you teacher Alex for this class, it´s was amazing.
Thank you teacher
thank you teacher
the all lessons you do is great
thank you, that was very helpful to me