How to say a sentence down in without using "know how to"?

I know how to play chess but I can't play it with you because I have to go

I want to combine two things:

1) Know how to

2) Have such a possibility

But I doubt next thing will work out:

I can play chess but I am not able to play it

Or conversely

I am able to play chess but I can't play it

The problem is, as I see, "be able to" and "can" can be understood either way. This case their combining isn't good. Otherwise it may sound like

I know how to play chess but I don't know how to play chess


I have a posibility to play chess but I don't have a possibility to play chess

Of course, I can try to say

I know how to play chess but I can't\ am not able to play it

But it looks like some hack or something. Is there a way to combine these meanigns in one sentence without any cheat-like phrases like above?

  • have such a possibility?
    – Lambie
    Jun 4, 2021 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


You are correct. The problem is "I can't play chess." can have two different meanings:
1. I don't know how to play chess.
2. I am unable to play chess at this moment.

The word "can" in English can mean the possession of skill or ability, or the availability of opportunity.

There are many ways to get around this.

"I know chess, but I can't play now, I have to go."
"I can play chess, but not right now."
"I'm a chess player, but I have to leave now."
"I can play chess, but I'm too busy for a game now."
"I'm a grand master, but my wife expects me home right away."
"I've played chess. Let's have a game later on."

  • Does "be able to" have those two meanings, too? Jun 1, 2020 at 15:06
  • Yes. Both "can" and "be able to" specify the possibility of doing something, either because the skills are ready, or because because some other condition is met. Jun 1, 2020 at 15:16

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