Modals of ability

This article is additional to the main page dedicated to Modal Verbs.

Actually, there is the only modal verb of ability in the English language. It is the verb 'can'.

It has a rather wide range of forms that work with different tenses. Let's look at all of them.

Can meaning

The modal verb 'can' has two meanings. First one is  our general ability to do something, the second one is our specific ability to do something according to a specific situation. 

For example πŸ‘‡

Carol can swim. (her general ability)

Carol can't talk right now. She is busy. (her specific ability)

Ability in the Future

When we talk about the future we use the phrase

will be able to do something

won't be able to do something

For example πŸ‘‡

Mike Parson said Wednesday most businesses would be able to reopen their doors when the state begins to loosen restrictions. Daily Journal Online

The Health Ministry will be able to conduct up to 22,000 tests daily for Covid-19 by next week. The Star Online

But the question on most everyone's mind is: “When will we be able to fly again?” The Points Guy UK (blog)

Premier League clubs 'fear foreign stars won't be able to return to England in time' for the season's restart due to border restrictions. Daily Mail

Ability in the past

When we talk about the past we use three grammar constructions to express different kinds of abilities.

General ability in the past - could/couldn't

Specific ability in the past - was able to/couldn't

Abilities for Perfect tenses - could have + past participle

For example πŸ‘‡

Within Asia, the Japanese and Singaporean economies could struggle the most in the coronavirus pandemic, said Steve Cochrane. CNBC

Gruffalo artist Axel Sheffler: 'This was something I could do to help'. BBC News

Starting Friday, retailers were able to deliver items to customers' cars or homes under the "retail-to-go" model that Abbott recently announced. KTXS

“My friends FaceTimed in so I was able to share a drink with them,” Coughlin said. Daily Northwestern

BILL Bayno believes Japeth Aguilar could have become the first-ever homegrown Filipino to play in the NBA. Sports Interactive Network Philippines

Halifax mayor, council could have done more to manage crisis.