I am able to / I can

chuche_

Member
Spanish
Hey, I have a question!!!
What's the difference between "I am able to" and "I can.".. Someone... can explain to me!!!
Thanks!
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Lillita

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    "Can" has only present and past tenses. We use "to be able to" to form all the other tenses (future simple, present perfect, etc.)
    (e.g. I don't have much time now but I hope I will be able to visit you tomorrow.)

    "Can" expresses ability.
    (e.g. Kate can speak 3 foreign languages.)

    "Could" expresses general ability in the past.
    (e.g. Alan could sing very well when he was young. -- But now he can't.)

    "Was/were able to" (= managed to do) expresses ability that we had in the past in a particular situation. It shows that someone did something, but with effort.
    (e.g. It was a very difficult test, but Mary was able to answer all the questions. = ... she managed to answer...)

    "Couldn't" expresses lack of ability in the past, either generally:
    :arrow: (e.g. My little brother couldn't ride a bicycle when he was two. ---> generally, not in a particular situation.)
    or in a particular situation:
    :arrow: (e.g. Helen tried but she couldn't open the door. = ... she didn't manage to open... ---> lack of ability in a particular situation.)

    Furthermore, "can/could" is used with verbs see, hear, feel, smell, taste, understand, remember, guess, etc.
    (e.g. I was a long way from the stage and I couldn't see anything. At least, I could hear the songs.)

    I hope it helps! ;)
     

    MrDiggs

    New Member
    I have to disagree slightly about the future : "can" may be used for future events (even though, technically speaking, it may not be a true future tense).
    For example, "I can visit you tomorrow" is perfectly acceptable.
    "I will be able to visit you tomorrow" is grammatically correct, but sounds very formal and is rarely used. I would recommend instead the use of "could" or "would be able to" to make a future possibility sound more polite: "I could [or would be able to] visit you tomorrow," meaning "Podría vistarte mañana."
    A question for Spanish speakers: is it correct to say "Puedo vistarte mañana," or is it necessary to say "podré" or "podría visitarte"?
     

    Ivy29

    Banned
    COLOMBIA-Español
    I have to disagree slightly about the future : "can" may be used for future events (even though, technically speaking, it may not be a true future tense).
    For example, "I can visit you tomorrow" is perfectly acceptable.
    "I will be able to visit you tomorrow" is grammatically correct, but sounds very formal and is rarely used. I would recommend instead the use of "could" or "would be able to" to make a future possibility sound more polite: "I could [or would be able to] visit you tomorrow," meaning "Podría vistarte mañana."
    A question for Spanish speakers: is it correct to say "Puedo vistarte mañana," or is it necessary to say "podré" or "podría visitarte"?

    Present tense in both languages have future connotations.

    Puedo
    Podría
    Podré
    Pudiera.

    Ivy29
     

    MTB

    Member
    spanish mexico/german/english
    Hi MrDiggs,

    You can say
    If you ask someone you can do it like this
    Puedo visitarte manana?
    Podría visitarte manana? (It is the same but more formal)

    If you are telling him you also use the same but without question marks-(both at the beginning and end of the sentence (I can't find them in this computer, therefore i din't write them))

    Puedo visitarte manana.
    Podré visitarte manana (is also a statement and means i will be able to visit you tomorrow.)
     

    furrykef

    Senior Member
    English (United States)
    Indeed "can" and "is able to" are generally interchangeable (when, as noted above, using the word "can" is actually possible). However, they are not always exactly the same.

    "Can you play the piano?" can mean either "¿Puedes tocar el piano?" or "¿Sabes tocar el piano?" Without additional context, "can" usually means "saber" in this sentence, but context may change that. If you ask the question to somebody who obviously knows how to play the piano and has a wrist injury, it means "poder".

    By contrast, "Are you able to play the piano?" almost always means "¿Puedes tocar el piano?". Not many people would use "are you able" to mean "do you know how" in this sentence, but I wouldn't say it's actually wrong, just unusual.


    Another difference is that "can" may be used to ask for permission, although some people (especially schoolteachers) think it's incorrect. I disagree with them, but it's better not to argue with them. So this is a typical elementary school exchange:

    Student: Can I go to the bathroom?
    Teacher: You mean, "May I go to the bathroom?".
    Student: Oh, come on, context makes it obvious what I meant!

    (OK, so that last line isn't very typical. Teachers don't like that.)

    On the other hand, "Am I able to go to the bathroom?" has nothing to do with permission, and is nonsensical unless there is some reason why the speaker might be physically prevented from going to the bathroom.


    Other, more subtle distinctions can be drawn, too. Using "able to" rather than "can" sort of gives the phrase an extra emphasis. But it's a fine nuance and one you don't really need to worry about too much, since context makes it unlikely that it will be misunderstood.

    - Kef
     

    efu

    Member
    checo-czech
    I have to disagree slightly about the future : "can" may be used for future events (even though, technically speaking, it may not be a true future tense).
    For example, "I can visit you tomorrow" is perfectly acceptable.
    "I will be able to visit you tomorrow" is grammatically correct, but sounds very formal and is rarely used. I would recommend instead the use of "could" or "would be able to" to make a future possibility sound more polite: "I could [or would be able to] visit you tomorrow," meaning "Podría vistarte mañana."
    A question for Spanish speakers: is it correct to say "Puedo vistarte mañana," or is it necessary to say "podré" or "podría visitarte"?

    si, puedo visitarte maňana se puede decir. es más. yo no diría podría visitarte porque suena como que yo te podría visitar pero no quiero
    pero claro, depente de la situación
     

    furrykef

    Senior Member
    English (United States)
    That belongs in its own thread, not here... and I don't know the answer to your question, unfortunately.
     

    matthews028

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    @cth:

    Yes, you certainly can use that phrase for "no pude hacer (algo)", or I suppose for "no podía hacer algo". "I wasn't able to" is probably the best way of saying "no pude", though "I couldn't" works as well. :) And they both work with "no podía" also, but "I couldn't" works slightly better.
     
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