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But you should only use ‘was/were able to’ with action verbs to talk about an ability related to a single event or incident in the past.

Examples:
I was able to surprise my teacher yesterday.
Don’t say: I could surprise my teacher yesterday.

This is an excerpt from a site. (https://blogs.transparent.com/english/cancould-vs-to-be-able-to/)

I can't understand what that means.

Why can't "could" be used with action verbs in the past tense?

  • Read the post more carefully; it says could is not used for the ability related to a single event or incident in the past. You can certainly say I could have surprised my teacher yesterday, for example, which describes your general state yesterday rather than a single moment. – choster Jan 26 at 2:06
  • @choster Ah... now I understand what you were saying. – Fringetos Jan 29 at 21:29

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