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December 14, 2011 - Word of the Day: be able to


The word "able" is almost always used with "be" and "to." Together these words form a verb phrase. When a person can do something or has the ability or time to do something, use "be able to" to describe the situation. It's very similar to "can."

  • She's able to speak English. (She can speak English.)
  • He isn't able to finish his work. (He can't finish his work.)
  • We're able to donate money to that organization.
  • I'm not able to see you today.
  • Why aren't you able to help me?

Sometimes "be able to" appears with modal verbs or other verb phrases:

  • Tom has to be able to use his computer.
  • Sarah wants to be able to leave work early today. (She wants permission from her supervisor.)
  • Are you going to be able to get your homework finished?
  • If you want this job you must be able to speak English well.

"Be able to" is often used at the end of a sentence in the negative:

  • He wanted to go to the party, but he wasn't able to.
  • I'd love to see you, but I'm not able to.
  • The police officer told her to move her car, but she wasn't able to. The battery was dead.


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