“Will Be Able To” vs. “Can” – Difference Revealed (All Variations)

When it comes to using “will be able to” and “can,” many native speakers believe them to be interchangeable. While this is partially true, and most people won’t note a difference, in this article, we’ll explore what the true differences are between them.

What Is The Difference Between “Will Be Able To” And “Can”?

“Will be able to” should be used when someone can do something in the future but might not be able to in the present. It refers to a continuous thing that can happen. “Can” should be used when referring to something someone can do right away in the present.

What Is The Difference Between "Will Be Able To" And "Can"?

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, “can” means “to be able to.” This is where most of the confusion between the similarities comes in for a lot of native speakers.

The keyword to remember in the phrases is “will,” which indicates that something will happen in the future when it’s possible.

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7 Examples Of How To Use “Will Be Able To” In A Sentence

Let’s go over some examples so you can see when “will be able to” makes more sense. In each case, we’ll include some further context to help you understand how the future link comes in.

  1. Soon, I will be able to go to the gym without pain!
  2. My doctor says I will be able to drink alcohol at parties again starting next week!
  3. You will be able to see your mother when she’s recovered further.
  4. He will be able to go to the party as soon as he’s cleaned his room.
  5. I will be able to do the things I’ve always wanted to do when I’m older.
  6. They will be able to attend this school if they get good enough grades.
  7. We will be able to assist you as soon as we find the time.

From these examples, it’s clear that “will be able to” refers to the possibility of doing something.

It’s mostly used to talk about doing something in the future that we might not be able to do right away. This could be because we’re too busy with something, or there’s a specific time frame we have to wait for before whatever it is will become accessible.

7 Examples Of How To Use “Can” In A Sentence

Now let’s look at when the present tense “can” is used more appropriately. Generally, in these cases, we’re already able to do whatever it is we’re talking about, and the contexts of each example will demonstrate this.

  1. I can finally see my mother again!
  2. I can keep doing this all day.
  3. We can go to the movies now.
  4. You can do whatever you want; I’m not going to stop you.
  5. She can find someone else if she really wants to.
  6. They can always go swimming in my backyard.
  7. Where can I go to find this video game?

“Can” is used to talk about something that we’re doing in the present or we’re about to do. There are no limitations to the thing we want to do, and it’s readily available to us.

We can also ask “can” as a question, like in example 7, to find out where we might be able to come across something we’re looking for or whether we’re allowed to do the thing we want to do.

The easiest way to remember the difference is that “can” is available, while “will be able to” is possible later.

Does “I Am Able To” And “I Can” Have The Same Meaning?

When we drop the word “will” from the phrase, things start to get a little easier to understand. Now, let’s go over using “I am able to” and “I can.”

“I am able to” has the same meaning as “I can.” Both of them refer to something that you can currently do in the present or have the ability to do right away if you want to do it.

Removing “will” from the phrase is all we need to do to make sure they have the same meaning. A lot of writers will use “can” over “am able to” because it’s more streamlined and to the point. “I am able to” is seen as wordy and unnecessary.

Is “Can Be Able To” Grammatically Correct?

“Can” means “be able to.” For this reason, “can be able to” is a reduplicative phrase and is incorrect. You cannot use “can be able to” or “could be able to” in a sentence.

Both “can” and “could” are synonymous with each other, and both of them mean “be able to.”

If you use “can be able to,” it would be like saying:

  • He can can do what he wants.
  • She could could do it.

As you see, we’re repeating ourselves here, which is incorrect.

Can “Will Be Able To” And “Would Be Able To” Be Used Interchangeably?

“Will be able to” and “would be able to” are generally interchangeable. However, “will be able to” identifies something we can do in the future, whereas “would be able to” usually refers to something we could do IF something else happened.

"Will Be Able To" And "Would Be Able To" historical development

If you look at this graph, you can see that “will be able to” is the more popular of the two. That’s simply because the situations where it comes up are more common. Also, more people prefer “will” over “would” in most written cases.

  • I will be able to do these things later in life.
  • I would be able to do this if I wasn’t so unfit!

What Is The Difference Between “Will Be Able To” And “Should Be Able To”?

“Will be able to” is used to talk about the possibility of doing something in the future. “Should be able to” is used to talk about something that we believe we could do, but we might not be able to do it for one reason or another.

"Will Be Able To" And "Should Be Able To" historical development

Here’s another graph to demonstrate the differences in popularity. Again, “will be able to” is more popular because the contexts where it comes up are slightly more common.

  • I will be able to attend the wedding as soon as I find a suit.
  • I should be able to go to the park today, but I don’t know if I’ll make it!