Unit 25 Can, could, and (be) able to


  • 조동사 can 은 가능·허락·능력을 나타내고, can + 동사 원형 (can do / can see, etc.)의 형태로 사용합니다.
    • We can see the ocean from our hotel window.
    • “I don’t have a pen.”  “You can use mine.”
    • Can you speak any foreign languages?
    • I can come and help you tomorrow if you want.
    • The word “dream” can be a noun or a verb.
  • can 의 부정은 can’t (= cannot) 입니다.
    • I’m afraid I can’t come to your party on Friday.


  • be able tocan 을 대신할 수 있지만 can 을 사용하는 것이 더 일반적입니다.
    • We are able to see the ocean from our hotel window.
  • can(현재) 과 could(과거) 의 두가지 형태만 있으므로 다른 형태가 필요한 경우 (be) able to 로 대신합니다. 비교:
    • I can’t sleep.
    • Tom can come tomorrow.
    • Maria can speak French, Spanish, and English.
    • I haven’t been able to sleep recently.
    • Tom might be able to come tomorrow.
    • Applicants for the job must be able to speak two foreign languages.

  C     Could

  • couldcan 의 과거로 사용되는 경우, 특히 다음의 동사들과 함께 사용합니다.
        see    hear    smell    taste    feel    remember    understand
    • We had a nice room in the hotel. We could see the ocean.
    • As soon as I walked into the room, I could smell gas.
    • She spoke in a very soft voice, so I couldn’t understand what she said.
  • could 로 과거의 일반적인 능력이나 허가를 나타내는 경우도 있습니다.
    • My grandfather could speak five languages.
    • We were totally free. We could do whatever we wanted. (= we were allowed to do)

  D     Could and was able to

  • could 는 일반적인 능력(가능성)을 나타내는 반면에, 특정한 상황에서의  능력을 나타낼 때는 was/were able to 또는 managed to (not could) 를 사용합니다.
    • The fire spread through the building very quickly, but fortunately everybody was able to escape / managed to escape. (not could escape)
    • We didn’t know where David was, but we managed to find / were able to find him in the end. (not could find)
  • 비교:
    • Jack was an excellent tennis player when he was younger. He could beat anybody. (= he had the general ability to beat anybody, 일반적인 능력)  but
      Jack and Ted played tennis yesterday. Ted played very well, but in the end Jack managed to beat / was able to beat him. (= he managed to beat him this time, 특정한 상황의 능력)
  • couldn’t (could not) 는 위의 두가지 경우에 전부 사용할 수 있습니다.
    • My grandfather couldn’t swim.
    • We looked for David everywhere, but we couldn’t find him.
    • Ted played well, but he couldn’t beat Jack.

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