"Can" or "be able to" in the future

Vsevolod

Senior Member
Russian
Good evening everyone!

Could you possibly help me draw the line between the meanings of "can" and "to be able to"?

Here's my go at it:

Ex.1

I will come to France any time you like as long as I [can / will be able to] find a job there.

Can = as long as there is a present possibility for me to find a job.

Will be able to = I need to be able to find a job when I'm there (seems more natural though).


Ex. 2

A: I can't download a song on itunes!
B: You [will be able to / can] download it when they fix the connection.

Can = a suggestion to wait until the connection is fixed.

Will be able to = indicates ability. Fixed connection is the condition under which the download is possible.

Ex. 3

A: Can I download my favourite song?
B: Fine, when they fix the connection, you can download your dreadful song.(Permission. Only "can" is possible)

Ex. 4

A: I want to work in The entertainment industry.
B: When they finish the construction of the amusement park you [can / will be able to] apply for a job there.

Can = suggestion

Will be able = ability


Ex. 5

A: I need to change money
B: You [can / will be able to] change the money when the banks open.

Can = suggestion

Will be able to = you can't do it now, but when the banks open you will be able to.

Ex. 6

A: I think I could use a drink.
B: You can get a beer when we are in Glasgow (suggestion)

Ex. 7

A: I think I could use a drink
B: When we are in Glasgow you [can / will be able to] get yourself a beer

Can = both permission and suggestion

Will be able to = you can't (for a particular reason) have a drink until we are in Glasgow.


Ex. 8

When your friends leave we [will be able to / can] talk.

Can = suggestion.

Will be able to = ability. Your frineds' presence prevents our talk.

Thank you in advance!

Seva☘
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You’re not comparing like with like in terms of tense.

    Past: I could / I was able to
    Present: I can / I am able to
    Future: I will be able to
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't know any meaning difference between using "can" and using some form of "to be able to".
    There are some differences, for example:
    - Only “can” can mean “sometimes true”
    Giraffes can be over 3 metres tall. :tick:
    Giraffes are able to be over 3 metres tall :rolleyes:
    -
    Can has no infinitive
    I won’t be able to go. :tick:
    I won’t can go. :cross:


    But I don’t think the differences apply Vsevolod’s examples: in those cases you can use either.
     

    Vsevolod

    Senior Member
    Russian
    dojibear, lingobingo, se16teddy, thank you so much for your help!

    Could I also ask you to explain me one more thing (or do I have to start a new thread?)

    Here are two examples where can is used to express present ability.

    1) He can run the marathon next year - appropriate (he is in a good enough shape to nail it).

    2) He can run the marathon in 4 hours next year - inappropriate (why?)

    I can't explain why but 2) feels to be wrong...why?
    Please, anyone, help me
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I am not sure there is anything ungrammatical about 2: it is just an absurdly rash prediction to make, and correspondingly unidiomatic. Who can tell what anyone's physical faculties will be next year?

    Next year, when he has got his degree, he can apply to do a doctorate. :tick:
     
    Last edited:

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    1) He can run the marathon next year - appropriate (he is in a good enough shape to nail it).
    This does not mean that he is already in good enough shape to run the marathon, just that there is at this moment nothing known that would prevent him from running the marathon next year.
    2) He can run the marathon in 4 hours next year - inappropriate (why?)
    "He can run the marathon in 4 hours" describes his current ability. It does not make sense to describe his current ability in relation to a future time or a future event; the speaker should describe his expected ability in the future, and this requires the future tense: "He will be able to run the marathon in four hours next year".
     

    Vsevolod

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thank you, se16teddy and Uncle Jack!

    I took it from the book. Here's an excerpt:
    Screenshot_20191023-192641.png

    This book is going to kill me😭
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    2) He can run the marathon in 4 hours next year - inappropriate (why?)
    Mainly because you did not give any context or explanation and running a marathon in 4 hours is not remarkable:

    A: Congratulations! Your 14 year old son ran the marathon in 2 hours 35! Are you going to enter your son for the marathon next year? He may achieve a faster time.
    B: I think so. If he can run the marathon in 2 hours 35 now, I reckon he can run the marathon in 2 hours 20 next year.
     
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