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Which ones are correct or more natural and why?

Set 1

  1. If it stops raining, I can go to the park this weekend.
  2. If it stops raining, I'll be able to go to the park this weekend.

Set 2

  1. If I find a spoon, I can eat my soup.
  2. If I find a spoon, I'll be able to eat my soup.
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  • All okay. If I find a spoon (now), I can eat my soup (one second later, which is now). Commented Jul 3 at 2:11
  • Per the linked question, If I train hard I can win the race is fine, whereas If I study hard I can speak French doesn't work. But both are fine with will be able to instead of can. Commented Jul 3 at 2:52
  • I agree with you but why? @FumbleFingers Commented Jul 3 at 6:05
  • @FumbleFingers - If I study hard I can speak French to my very pretty pen-friend Danièle when she comes over and maybe... who knows? Commented Jul 3 at 10:01
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    @MichaelHarvey, Chien: For any given example, you might be able to tweak it so can "works", but that doesn't change the (rather peculiar) fact that there is something in the general area of my cited example whereby can and will be able to aren't always completely interchangeable. James' answer in the linked question attempts to address this point, but I can't say it lays everything out clearly. So, Chien - you're quite right to ask but why? (and I'm afraid at this stage in the game, I can't answer that! :) Commented Jul 3 at 11:26

1 Answer 1

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'can and 'be able to'.
We use 'can' and 'be able to' to talk about abilities, knowledge, or talent. We use 'can' to talk about the present and the future. 'Be able to' is used in all tenses to show ability.

  1. Remember that can is an auxiliary verb that is used to express possibility or permission, whereas able to expresses having the power, skill, or means to do something.
  2. Use the phrase 'can do' to help you remember that can is used to express possibility or permission.
  3. Use the phrase 'able and willing' to help you remember that able to expresses having the power, skill, or means to do something.
  4. Pay attention to the context in which the words are used to determine their meaning.
    In English, you can convey the same meaning in different ways. The two sentences in Set A and Set B mean the same and it is your personal choice which sentence you use. However I prefer "will be able to" over "can."
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  • "able to" can be used in all tenses however "be" still implies present or future tense, the past tense would require substitution for "was", e.g.: (As) It stopped raining, I was able to go to the park last weekend. It is a little different, because we know if it was raining last weekend, hence it's no longer a question. Even if we didn't know if it was raining, there would have been a slightly different form, i.e.: Assuming it wasn't raining, I would have been able to go to the park last weekend.
    – DavidT
    Commented Jul 3 at 9:26
  • 'Can' is used in present and future. Could is the past tense of can Commented Jul 3 at 9:47
  • I read the question as asking more about present and future than can/able to. Commented Jul 3 at 11:43

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