ability that still exists in the present

lingkky

Senior Member
chinese
Can we use “past tense” for the ability that still exists in the present to talk about our past exeperience?

For example, I still can read English words clearly after the English test.
Here is the context.

"There was an English test yesterday to test students's pronounciation on English words. I could/can pronounce English words clearly."


It seems both "could" and "can" are correct in the context.
"Could" talks about I was able to do it during the test while "Can" means I have gained the ability as shown during the test.

So, are both "can " and "could " interchangable in the context ( Given that I still can read the English words clearly) ?
Are there any differences?
 
  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I think you've pinpointed the main difference. It's also possible for can to indicate your current general level of proficiency rather than your test performance. I.e., a sentence like "I can pronounce English words clearly, but I still made some mistakes during the test" is possible.
     

    lingkky

    Senior Member
    chinese
    I think you've pinpointed the main difference. It's also possible for can to indicate your current general level of proficiency rather than your test performance. I.e., a sentence like "I can pronounce English words clearly, but I still made some mistakes during the test" is possible.
    Can " could " be used in the context to talk about the past experience only (in the test) given that I still can do it now

    Here are the sentences refarding the situatuion above .
    I have finished my English test.I could pronounce English words clearly.(in the test)

    Is it correct?
     
    Last edited:

    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yes, certainly. But "could" doesn't indicate that you can still do it; you might or might not still have the same proficiency. The presumption is that you do, since the test was only yesterday. Things might not be so clear if the test had occurred, say, a year ago; then it might be true that "I could pronounce English words clearly, but I've lost some of my proficiency over the past year since I haven't been practicing regularly."
     

    lingkky

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Yes, certainly. But "could" doesn't indicate that you can still do it; you might or might not still have the same proficiency. The presumption is that you do, since the test was only yesterday. Things might not be so clear if the test had occurred, say, a year ago; then it might be true that "I could pronounce English words clearly, but I've lost some of my proficiency over the past year since I haven't been practicing regularly."
    I am going to use present perfect rather than past tense.
    For example,
    I have recently finished my English test.I could pronounce English words clearly.(in the test)

    Can “could ” be used when the sentence is present perfect tense?I just want to decribe the past experience.
     

    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Why present perfect? Simple past seems better to me: I recently finished my English test and showed that I can/could pronounce English words clearly. (I'd probably prefer can in that sentence, since there's been no change in your proficiency since the test.)
     
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