“Be Able to Have” With a Past Participle When Referring to a Possible Past Action

Vlad Kotenko


I would like to know whether it is correct to use the phrase “be able to have” to express confidence or belief in the possibility that a person could take a certain action in the past (but which they did not take).

Is it grammatically correct to say the following?

The teacher is able to have provided a better explanation. (But she did not.)

The manager is able to have added more persons to the staff last year. (But he did not.)

The corporation’s president is able to have opened a new branch in 2014. (But he did not.)
  • DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    You would need to use the past tense, I think:
    The teacher was able to have provided a better explanation. (But she did not.)

    However, while I would say it's grammatically correct, it sounds very awkward and in practice we'd say it as:
    The teacher could have provided a better explanation. (But she did not.)

    The same comments apply to your other two examples. :)
    If I understand what you want to express, but perhaps I don't, I wouldn't use "could" at all but rather this construction:

    The teacher should have been capable of providing a better explanation but she was not.
    The manager should have been capable of adding....but he was not", etc,

    (Any tense alone can't carry the additional idea of the person not following through with an action, that has to be stated directly in the sentence.)

    So I guess it hinges on whether this was a deliberate withholding of something or rather an expectation by others of abilities not within the power of the actors, in which case you can ignore my suggestions if this was deliberate. :confused:
    Last edited:

    Vlad Kotenko

    Thank you for the explanations. I can conclude that it is incorrect to use the phrase "be able to have" when referring to an action which could be taken in the past. The phrase "could have" may be used instead.
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