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Example 1

My father provided me with money so that I could go to those swimming lessons.

Example 2

My father provided me with money so that I was able to go to those swimming lessons.

Example 3

My father provided me with money so that I went to those swimming lessons.

Example 3 basically means that I did go to the swimming lessons.

However, what is the difference between "could" and "was able to" here?

Does "could" mean that I got the ability to go to the swimming lessons but I did not necessarily do it?

Does "was able to" mean that I actually did go to the lessons?

Can Example 1 have the same meaning as Example 3?

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    Example #2 is "peculiar". I can only understand it as meaning that speaker's father gave him money for some other reason (or no particular reason; sometimes that's just what generous fathers do). And as an [unforeseen, but not necessarily unwanted] consequence of having been given that money, speaker was able to pay for swimming lessons. Example #3 is even more strange, but it kinda suggests to me that speaker didn't want swimming lessons (the money was a "bribe" to force him to take them). Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 19:10
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    If you wanted to convey the (incredibly unlikely) sense that speaker didn't have the lessons even though that's why the father gave him the money in the first place, you'd need to use a lot more words. Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 19:13
  • None of the versions sounds natural. If Father paid for the lessons, you would either say that or say My father provided me with the money to go for swimming lessons. Commented Jul 5, 2023 at 7:58
  • I don't really see the point of the bounty here. By far the biggest "difference" between example #1 and the other two is that #2 and #3 aren't at all likely to be used by a native speaker in the first place. What use is it to know what something would mean, if the only likely source is a non-native speaker anyway? Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 17:31
  • I would not say provided here. I would use "gave me the money" And here could and was able to mean the same thing. They are not the same as went. So that I went is merely a consequence. Conversation context: But, Jean, My father gave me the money so I was able/could to go to those swimming lessons. The point is they are all grammatical and could be used in certain situations.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 17:45

1 Answer 1

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My father provided me with money so that I could go to those swimming lessons.

Meaning: you father provided you with money for the purpose of going to those swimming lessons. The swimming lessons probably happened in the past, but not necessarily.

My father provided me with money so that I was able to go to those swimming lessons.

Meaning: you father provided you with money to make it possible for you to go to those swimming lessons. (This has almost the same meaning as the previous example. The swimming lessons must have happened in the past if they happened.)

My father provided me with money so that I went to those swimming lessons.

This is wrong. Here is the corrected version:

My father provided me with money, so I went to those swimming lessons.

This means you've already gone to the swimming lessons, because you got the money. This is different from Example 1 in the sense that Example 1's swimming lessons could happen in the future.

However, what is the difference between "could" and "was able to" here?

Almost nothing. The interpreted meaning is the same.

Does "could" mean that I got the ability to go to the swimming lessons but I > did not necessarily do it?

Yes, but with no other context, most people would guess that you did go to the swimming lessons, though it is possible that you did not.

Does "was able to" mean that I actually did go to the lessons?

No. It means it was possible to. This is the same meaning as above. If anything, this has more of connotation that maybe you didn't go.

Can Example 1 have the same meaning as Example 3? The corrected version of Example 3 has almost the same meaning as Example 1, except in Example 1, it is still possible that you didn't or won't attend (or even didn't attend quite yet, but will attend). However, if you said this with no context and meant that you didn't really attend, it would be seen as a technicality by most speakers, and possibly as deceitful without clarifying that you did not attend.

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