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be able to (third-person singular simple present is able to, present participle being able to, simple past was able to, past participle been able to)

  1. Can, to have the ability to.

Usage notesEdit

  • See be for the full inflection of be.
  • To be able to may be used whenever can (the modal verb) is used; it is always used in tenses where can, which is defective, has no corresponding form. For example, "He said I would be able to go" is the same as "He said I could go", and "You will be able to watch" replaces the non-existent *You will can watch.
  • To be able to can be used instead of could to avoid ambiguity between would be able to and was/were able to. For example, "I know I could win" can mean either "I know I was able to win" or "I know I would be able to win", whereas the forms using to be able to avoid this ambiguity.



See alsoEdit