COULD or WAS ABLE TO (ETC.)

Comment et quand faut-il utiliser could or was able to ?

1. VOICI LES CAS OÙ ON PEUT SANS PROBLÈME UTILISER COULD (dans le sens de : POSSIBLE or ALLOWED TO or ABLE TO DO STH.)

a. When we were at the hotel, we could see a beautiful lake just in front (POSSIBLE)

b. As soon as Sandy was 18, she could go out when she wanted (was ALLOWED TO)

c. My grandfather could speak many languages (dans le sens de SAVOIR = was ABLE TO)

d. Could you sleep last night? (Were you ABLE TO)

e. John was a great tennis player. He could beat any player (GENERAL ABILITY)

f. Jerry could already drive when he was 14 (dans le sens de SAVOIR = was ABLE TO)

2. MAINTENANT LES CAS OÙ « WAS ABLE » EST NÉCESSAIRE car on insiste sur le fait d’avoir été capable de faire qqch. ou autre raison

a. Despite the fire, the people were able to go out of the bulding (MANAGED TO)

b. We didn’t know where Tom were, but finally we were able to find him (MANAGED TO)

c. Yesterday, he was on top form. He was able to beat him (MANAGED TO)

d. I used to be able to stand on my head when I was 15 (RAISON GRAMMATICALE)

e. Did you have problems finding our house? No, I was able to find it easily (MANAGED TO)

3. FORME NÉGATIVE : COULDN’T EST POSSIBLE ET GÉNÉRALEMENT UTILISÉ DANS TOUS LES CAS sauf exceptions (voir sous 4 et 5)

a. I couldn’t sleep last night (NOT ABLE TO)

b. My grandfather couldn’t speak a word of English in his life! (dans le sens de NE PAS SAVOIR = NOT ABLE TO)

c. Even if she was 18, she couldn’t do what she wanted (NOT ALLOWED TO)

d. Although John was on top form, he couldn’t beat his opponent (NOT ABLE TO)

e. It’s a pity he couldn’t come to the party yesterday night (NOT POSSIBLE or NOT ALLOWED)

4. FORME NEGATIVE OÙ COULDN’T N’EST PAS POSSIBLE (exception)

a. I’ve never been able to understand him. He is too complicated for me!

5. FORME NEGATIVE OÙ BE ABLE EST NÉCESSAIRE pour insister sur le fait de ne pas avoir été capable de faire qqch. (exception)

a. I was ill yesterday, so I wasn’t able to do that.

b. I wasn’t able to take any pictures because I had forgotten to take my camera.

CAS PARTICULIERS

La forme CAN/COULD n’est pas possible après les verbes ou auxiliaires de mode comme MUST, MAY/MIGHT, SHOULD, OUGHT TO… ainsi qu’après des formes comme USED TO, WOULD LIKE TO…, comme par exemple dans :

Just ask Tom, he might be able to help you (il pourrait peut-être t’aider)

He used to be able to do that when he was 15 (il avait l’habitude de pouvoir faire cela quand…)

I would like to be able to do that (j’aimerais bien pouvoir faire cela/être capable de faire cela)

RAPPEL : COULD/COULDN’T AU CONDITIONNEL (voir article sur les modaux comme CAN-COULD, etc.)

a. You could do it

b. You could have done it

c. You couldn’t do it

d. You couldn’t have done it

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