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I was taught like, one can switch "Could" with "Would Be Able To", in a sense of hypothetical usage, and the future in a past tense like this one below.

I thought you could catch it.

I thought you would be able to catch it.

Q.1) But, can you put "Would Be Able To" into the place of the "Could" which is a past form of can?

When I was young, I could touch a bug with bare hands.

When I was young, I would be able to touch a bug with bare hands.

Q.2) How about the polite version of can?

Could you do this for me?

Would you be able to do this for me?

I'm not worrying about the subtle nuance differences. I'm just worried that they can't be exchanged at all.

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    More naturally, When I was young, I was able to touch a bug with bare hands. When in doubt, go for simpler tense forms - so choose I thought you could catch it over I thought you would have been able to catch it. – FumbleFingers Aug 13 '18 at 14:53
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The difference between Q1 and Q2 is that the former doesn't fit your in a sense of hypothetical usage requirement.

As it stands, at least the first part is a declaration of your ability. Rephrased, both parts become more hypothetical, and basically mean the same thing.

When I was young, I could have touched a bug with bare hands.

When I was young, I would have been able to touch a bug with bare hands.

  • Thx but I wasn't asking hypothetical usage for Q1 and Q2. Q1 was for Past-form of can and Q2 was for Polite could. I don't want Q1, Q2 to be changed into hypothetical nuance. I was just asking whether Could and Would Be Able To are switchable when Could means past ability or politeness. – dolco Aug 13 '18 at 23:22

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