'can' or 'will be able to'?


Hello everyone,

I noticed that native speakers when talking about a possibility in the future, tend to use 'can' instead of 'will be able to'.

For example,
I'm sorry, I can't come to your party tonight.
Instead of:
I'm sorry, I won't be able to come to your party tonight.
Is it so?

How about this sentence then?
I don't think I can finish it on time.
Or is it better to say it this way?
I don't think I will be able to finish it on time.

Thank you! :)
  • beeonthetree

    :thumbsup: This version is a normal way to express the same idea, beeonthetree. Both versions are normal, but I prefer the shorter version.
    Thank you so much for the prompt reply! :)

    So you mean that 'can' and 'will be able to' are interchangeable in this context, right?


    Senior Member
    English - England
    All modal verbs enable the verb to refer to the future as well as the present.

    I swim every day. :tick:
    I swim tomorrow (possible only for a specific kind of future sometimes called a "scheduled future")
    A may/might/must/will/can/could swim tomorrow. :tick: These do not imply that an arrangement exists in the present.

    For example, the modal verb "will" can refer to the present or future; but it is so useful for allowing verbs to refer to the future that people taking their first steps in English are sometimes told that it is a "future tense".
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