1

If I'm trying to describe a situation in the past in which I wasn't able to find a specific pair of shoes, should I say:

  1. I couldn't find those ones.

or

  1. I wasn't able to find those ones.
  • 1
    Same thing. They mean the same in practical terms. – Lambie Mar 10 '18 at 21:18
  • Not really. See this answer if you want something a bit more exhaustive. (You asked a fairly specific question, but perhaps you could generalize some of its aspects to get a more reference-like answer.) – userr2684291 Mar 10 '18 at 22:20
2

In this specific case, "can" and "be able to" are interchangeable. But be careful, because there are subtle differences.

For example, your question start with "Can I use..." - this is an example of using "can" with the meaning "is allowed to". Consequently, "can you do it?" may have a very different meaning from "are you able to do it?", and sometimes you should choose your words carefully.

1

You can use either.

I could not find something.
I was not able to find something.

"Can" means ability.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.