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phrasal modal verbs
(be) able to

(be) able to

The phrasal modal, “be able to,” is similar to the modal verb “can.” Sometimes “be able to” is a better choice because it is used with so many other verbs. 

 

Pay close attention to the way the verb “be” changes when reading or writing. The verb “be” indicates the verb tense. 

In the examples below, “be able to” is in the present tense. 

a.  be able to – present tense

 

(be) able to + main verb 

be = am, is, are

Singular

I am able to read. 

You are able to read.

He is able to read. 

She is able to read. 

It is able to read.

Plural

We are able to read. 

You are able to read.  

They are able to read. 

 

Notice the way the verb “be” changes according to the subject: 

am, is, are

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a. Examples
  • They are able to read. 
  • They are able to read in English.   
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  • She is able to read. 
  • She is able to read in French.
  • I am not able to read in French.   

In the examples below, “be able to” is in the past tense. 

b.  be able to – past tense

 

(be) able to + main verb 

be = was or were

Singular

I was able to go. 

You was able to go. 

He was able to go.

She was able to go. 

It was able to go.

Plural

We were able to go. 

You were able to go. 

They were able to go.

 

Notice the way the verb “be” changes according to the subject: 

was or were

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b. Examples
  • They were able to go on vacation last summer. 
  • While on vacation, they were able to go to the beach.  
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  • We were able to attend Sarah’s wedding. 
  • Sarah’s grandmother was not able to attend.    

In the examples below, “be able to” is in the future tense. 

c.  be able to – future tense

 

(be) able to + main verb 

be = will be 

Singular

I will be able to leave.  

You will be able to leave. 

He will be able to leave.

She will be able to leave. 

It will be able to leave. 

Plural

We will be able to leave.  

You will be able to leave. 

They will be able to leave. 

 

Notice that the verb “be” does not change according to the subject: 

will be

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c. Examples
  • He’ll be able to leave for Paris in the morning. 
  • His friends will be able to pick him up from the train station. 
  • They will all be able to go out for dinner in the evening. 
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