Can vs Able To

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What’s the difference between them?

Can

Meaning:

Can is an auxiliary verb that is used to express possibility or permission.

Examples:

1. Can I borrow your pen?

2. Can you help me with this task?

3. I can't believe it's already Friday!

Able To

Meaning:

Able To: having the power, skill, or means to do something; capable of doing something.

Examples:

1. I am able to help you with your project.

2. She was able to find the answer to the question quickly.

3. He was able to finish the task before the deadline.

Learn similar and opposite words to spot the difference

Synonyms

Antonyms

Can

1. Able

2. Capable

3. Possess

4. Have the capacity

5. Be equipped with the ability

1. Cannot

2. Shouldn't

3. Disallow

4. Deny

5. Refuse

Able To

1. Capable

2. Competent

3. Adept

4. Skilled

5. Up to the task

1. Incapable of

2. Unable to

3. Powerless to

4. Incompetent at

5. Unqualified for

Tricks for mastery

Useful tips to understand the difference between confusing words "Can", "Able To".

1. Remember that can is an auxiliary verb that is used to express possibility or permission, whereas able to expresses having the power, skill, or means to do something.

2. Use the phrase 'can do' to help you remember that can is used to express possibility or permission.

3. Use the phrase 'able and willing' to help you remember that able to expresses having the power, skill, or means to do something.

4. Pay attention to the context in which the words are used to determine their meaning.

Check the full list of commonly confused words in English

Learn the difference

Frequently asked questions

When should 'can' be used?

Can is used to express ability, permission, or possibility. It is typically used as an auxiliary verb to form questions or to make requests. It can also be used to ask for or give permission, or to indicate a strong possibility.

When is the appropriate context for using the phrase 'able to'?

Able To is used to express having the power, skill, or means to do something; capable of doing something. It can also be used to express the notion of having the opportunity or freedom to do something.

Do the two words share the same pronunciation?

No, can is pronounced /ken/, while able to is pronounced /eibl tu/.

What are some common mistakes people make when using these words?

One common mistake people make when using these words is confusing 'can' with 'may'. Can is used to express ability, permission, or possibility while may is used to express permission or possibility in the form of a polite request. Moreover, people tend to use 'able to' instead of 'can' which is incorrect as 'able to' is used to express the notion of having the opportunity or freedom to do something.

Fill in the gaps to check yourself

1. With hard work and dedication, anyone __________ achieve their goals.

2. Shes not feeling well today, so she __________ attend the meeting.

3. Its amazing how some animals __________ communicate with humans through gestures and sounds.

4. He __________ play the piano beautifully since he was a child.

5. Im sorry, but I __________ not help you with that problem right now; Im busy.

6. Despite the difficult circumstances, they were __________ complete the project on time.

1. With hard work and dedication, anyone can achieve their goals.

Explanation: Can is used to indicate the general ability to achieve goals with effort.

2. Shes not feeling well today, so she isnt able to attend the meeting.

Explanation: Isnt able to indicates her current inability to attend the meeting due to not feeling well.

3. Its amazing how some animals are able to communicate with humans through gestures and sounds.

Explanation: Are able to emphasizes the remarkable ability of certain animals to communicate with humans.

4. He has been able to play the piano beautifully since he was a child.

Explanation: Has been able to indicates his continuous ability to play the piano beautifully from childhood to the present.

5. Im sorry, but I cannot help you with that problem right now; Im busy.

Explanation: Cannot expresses the inability to help due to being busy.

6. Despite the difficult circumstances, they were able to complete the project on time.

Explanation: Able to indicates their achievement of completing the project despite challenges.

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List of Commonly Confused Words

Finding your way around the English language can be hard, especially since there are so many confusing words and rules. So, a list of the most confusing words in English is an extremely useful tool for improving language accuracy and sharing the ideas clearly.