Talking about Ability in English

Hello English learners. Welcome to a new lesson. We will learn different ways of talking about ability in English.

The English teachers at My Lingua Academy are happy to help you improve your English. You can attend our online individual and group private lessons or learn English for free with our blog posts where you will find loads of grammar and vocabulary lessons, as well as exercises and quizzes.

Using of modal verbs can, could and be able to to talk about ability

To talk about general ability, we normally use the modal verb can.

  • I can cook really good pasta.
  • Simon can ride a bicycle.
  • They can speak Italian.

We can also use could to talk about ability in the past.

  • Mary could write when she was five.
  • I could stay up all night when I was younger.
  • Lucy could run really fast when she was in high school.

We can use be able to to talk about ability in the future.

  • We’re moving to Spain so we’ll be able to speak Spanish every day.
  • I’m not sure I’ll be able to come to the party.
  • When I get my salary, I’ll be able to take you to dinner.

Find more about the modal verbs can, could, and be able to here.

Phrases to use for talking about ability

To know how

We can use the phrase “to know how” instead of can.

  • I know how to sail the boat.
  • Do you know how to fill in this form?
  • Everyone knows how to fasten a seatbelt.
To be good at

If you are good at something, then you can do it very well.

  • Our son is very good at maths.
  • She is very good at motivating her students.
  • Mark is good at geography but bad at history.
To manage

If you can manage something, you can deal with it successfully.

  • How do you manage to be so slim?
  • It’s amazing how you manage to stay cool in this heat.
  • After a few attempts, Sara managed to turn the car on.
To find something easy or difficult to do

Meaning: something is easy or difficult for a particular person to do.

  • At first, we found it difficult to do this job but two years later it’s much easier.
  • Do you find it difficult to learn Chinese?
  • Laura has always found it easy to express her affection in writing.
To be useless at something

If you are useless at something, then you are not able to do it very well.

  • Stephen is pretty useless at DIY. He can’t even paint a wall.
  • The manager sacked Jay because he found him useless at work.
  • I’m totally useless at maths. Can you help me with my homework?
To not have a clue

Meaning: to not know how to do something or be very bad at doing it.

  • Phoebe doesn’t have a clue how to turn the new machine on. Shall we check it out online?
  • The new manager doesn’t have a clue how to do his job.
  • I don’t have a clue how to drive.

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Talking about ability in English
Talking about ability in English

My Lingua Academy

My Lingua Academy is an online school of English language. We give one-on-one lessons to students of English of all ages and all levels of knowledge all around the world. With us you can prepare for written assignments and exams, attend a general or business English course, or have conversation classes with qualified English teachers who have years of experience.

1 Comment

Ali Hassaballa · 24 Aug 2023 at 8:42 pm

Thanks…. good essay….

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