Past Ability: Could, Was Able To, Managed To

2019-11-01

00:00 / 00:00
复读宝 RABC v8.0beta 复读机按钮使用说明
播放/暂停
停止
播放时:倒退3秒/复读时:回退AB段
播放时:快进3秒/复读时:前进AB段
拖动:改变速度/点击:恢复正常速度1.0
拖动改变复读暂停时间
点击:复读最近5秒/拖动:改变复读次数
设置A点
设置B点
取消复读并清除AB点
播放一行
停止播放
后退一行
前进一行
复读一行
复读多行
变速复读一行
变速复读多行
LRC
TXT
大字
小字
滚动
全页
1
  • Imagine that you are interviewing for a job you really want.
  • 2
  • Most of the questions are in your native language, but the job will require you to use some English.
  • 3
  • So, the employer asks about your English skills.
  • 4
  • You might answer with the words, "I can speak English very well" or "I am able to speak English very well."
  • 5
  • The two statements have the same meaning.
  • 6
  • Both "can" and "be able to" are used to express ability.
  • 7
  • In a spoken exchange, "can" is far more common while "be able to" sounds less natural.
  • 8
  • However, when we are talking about the past, the rules change a bit.
  • 9
  • Today, I will show you how to express past abilities with "could" "was (or) were able to" and another phrase you may have heard before - "managed to."
  • 10
  • The first thing to know is that, in the past tense, we express general abilities and abilities at specific times in different ways.
  • 11
  • That is important, as you will soon see.
  • 12
  • Let's start with general abilities.
  • 13
  • These are skills or talents a person once had.
  • 14
  • In the past tense, English speakers almost always use "could."
  • 15
  • Listen to a few examples.
  • 16
  • By the time he was four, Guillermo could read and write.
  • 17
  • In high school, she could beat anyone in a running race.
  • 18
  • I could mimic bird sounds when I was younger.
  • 19
  • Again, we are talking about general skills or talents - not about a specific occasion.
  • 20
  • Note that, in any of these examples, "was (or) were able to" is also possible but used less often.
  • 21
  • You could say, for example, "By the time he was four, Guillermo was able to read and write," and it would be fine.
  • 22
  • It also might sound a little formal in spoken English.
  • 23
  • Now, let's talk about specific occasions.
  • 24
  • Here is where the rules change a bit.
  • 25
  • When we are talking about a specific situation or when noting a specific achievement, we must use "was (or) were able to" or "managed to."
  • 26
  • Their meanings are very close.
  • 27
  • We do not use "could."
  • 28
  • Listen to some examples:
  • 29
  • We were able to get a really good price on the car.
  • 30
  • We managed to get a really good price on the car.
  • 31
  • I was able to persuade her to volunteer at the show.
  • 32
  • I managed to persuade her to volunteer at the show.
  • 33
  • Now let's talk more about the meanings.
  • 34
  • "Was (or) were able to" and "managed to" both suggest effort.
  • 35
  • They mean someone succeeded in doing something that was a challenge or took a special effort.
  • 36
  • However, the phrase "managed to" puts a little more emphasis on how hard the challenge was or how much effort it took.
  • 37
  • Note that "managed to" is fairly common in spoken English.
  • 38
  • You will hear it used almost everywhere.
  • 39
  • Now, let's take a few minutes to quickly explore an exception to the rules we just discussed.
  • 40
  • Earlier, I told you that we use "could" for general abilities.
  • 41
  • But there are two kinds of verbs where we also use "could" for specific occasions.
  • 42
  • With sense verbs, such as "smell" and "taste," and thought process verbs, such as "believe" "decide" and "understand," we usually use "could" even when talking about specific occasions.
  • 43
  • Listen to two examples of what I mean:
  • 44
  • I walked past a market today and could smell the freshly baked bread.
  • 45
  • We couldn't decide what to get for his birthday so we bought a gift card.
  • 46
  • Note that the second example uses the negative form -- "couldn't."
  • 47
  • So, now would be a good time to talk more about negative forms.
  • 48
  • The good news is that we can use "couldn't," "wasn't (or) weren't able to," or "didn't manage to" to express the same thing - inability on a specific occasion in the past.
  • 49
  • Listen to how these are used for the same statement.
  • 50
  • He studied for months but couldn't pass the bar exam.
  • 51
  • He studied for months but wasn't able to pass the bar exam.
  • 52
  • He studied for months but didn't manage to pass the bar exam.
  • 53
  • All three sentences mean that a person was not capable of doing something on a specific occasion.
  • 54
  • Note also that sometimes, for the negative form of "managed to," we say, "couldn't manage to" instead of "didn't manage to."
  • 55
  • They mean the same thing:
  • 56
  • He studied for months but couldn't manage to pass the bar exam.
  • 57
  • Well, that's all for now. Luckily, I did manage to do something today: teach you how to talk about past abilities!
  • 58
  • I'm Alice Bryant.
  • 1
  • Imagine that you are interviewing for a job you really want. Most of the questions are in your native language, but the job will require you to use some English. So, the employer asks about your English skills. You might answer with the words, "I can speak English very well" or "I am able to speak English very well."
  • 2
  • The two statements have the same meaning.
  • 3
  • Both "can" and "be able to" are used to express ability. In a spoken exchange, "can" is far more common while "be able to" sounds less natural.
  • 4
  • However, when we are talking about the past, the rules change a bit.
  • 5
  • Today, I will show you how to express past abilities with "could" "was (or) were able to" and another phrase you may have heard before - "managed to."
  • 6
  • The first thing to know is that, in the past tense, we express general abilities and abilities at specific times in different ways. That is important, as you will soon see.
  • 7
  • General abilities
  • 8
  • Let's start with general abilities. These are skills or talents a person once had. In the past tense, English speakers almost always use "could."
  • 9
  • Listen to a few examples.
  • 10
  • By the time he was four, Guillermo could read and write.
  • 11
  • In high school, she could beat anyone in a running race.
  • 12
  • I could mimic bird sounds when I was younger.
  • 13
  • Again, we are talking about general skills or talents - not about a specific occasion.
  • 14
  • Note that, in any of these examples, "was (or) were able to" is also possible but used less often. You could say, for example, "By the time he was four, Guillermo was able to read and write," and it would be fine. It also might sound a little formal in spoken English.
  • 15
  • Specific occasions
  • 16
  • Now, let's talk about specific occasions. Here is where the rules change a bit.
  • 17
  • When we are talking about a specific situation or when noting a specific achievement, we must use "was (or) were able to" or "managed to." Their meanings are very close.
  • 18
  • We do not use "could."
  • 19
  • Listen to some examples:
  • 20
  • We were able to get a really good price on the car.
  • 21
  • We managed to get a really good price on the car.
  • 22
  • I was able to persuade her to volunteer at the show.
  • 23
  • I managed to persuade her to volunteer at the show.
  • 24
  • Now let's talk more about the meanings. "Was (or) were able to" and "managed to" both suggest effort. They mean someone succeeded in doing something that was a challenge or took a special effort. However, the phrase "managed to" puts a little more emphasis on how hard the challenge was or how much effort it took.
  • 25
  • Note that "managed to" is fairly common in spoken English. You will hear it used almost everywhere.
  • 26
  • Exception to the rule
  • 27
  • Now, let's take a few minutes to quickly explore an exception to the rules we just discussed.
  • 28
  • Earlier, I told you that we use "could" for general abilities. But there are two kinds of verbs where we also use "could" for specific occasions.
  • 29
  • With sense verbs, such as "smell" and "taste," and thought process verbs, such as "believe" "decide" and "understand," we usually use "could" even when talking about specific occasions.
  • 30
  • Listen to two examples of what I mean:
  • 31
  • I walked past a market today and could smell the freshly baked bread.
  • 32
  • We couldn't decide what to get for his birthday so we bought a gift card.
  • 33
  • Note that the second example uses the negative form -- "couldn't."
  • 34
  • Using the negatives
  • 35
  • So, now would be a good time to talk more about negative forms.
  • 36
  • The good news is that we can use "couldn't," "wasn't (or) weren't able to," or "didn't manage to" to express the same thing - inability on a specific occasion in the past. Listen to how these are used for the same statement.
  • 37
  • He studied for months but couldn't pass the bar exam.
  • 38
  • He studied for months but wasn't able to pass the bar exam.
  • 39
  • He studied for months but didn't manage to pass the bar exam.
  • 40
  • All three sentences mean that a person was not capable of doing something on a specific occasion.
  • 41
  • Note also that sometimes, for the negative form of "managed to," we say, "couldn't manage to" instead of "didn't manage to." They mean the same thing:
  • 42
  • He studied for months but couldn't manage to pass the bar exam.
  • 43
  • Well, that's all for now. Luckily, I did manage to do something today: teach you how to talk about past abilities!
  • 44
  • I'm Alice Bryant.
  • 45
  • Alice Bryant wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
  • 46
  • ________________________________________________________________
  • 47
  • Words in This Story
  • 48
  • phrase - n. a group of two or more words that express an idea but do not usually form a complete sentence
  • 49
  • specific - adj. precise or exact
  • 50
  • mimic - v. to create the appearance or effect of (something)
  • 51
  • formal - adj. suitable for serious or official speech and writing
  • 52
  • achievement - n. something that has been done or achieved through effort
  • 53
  • challenge - n. something that is hard to do
  • 54
  • emphasis - n. special importance or attention given to something
  • 55
  • baked - adj. cooked in an oven using dry heat
  • 56
  • negative - adj. expressing denial or refusal
  • 57
  • bar - n. the test that a person must pass in order to be a lawyer