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1. He could not attend the meeting.

2. He was not able to attend the meeting.

We have been taught that 'could' is to be used in past only when 'know how to do' or capable to do or you had the skill to do.In sentence number 1 there is no skill or knowledge capability, so I am confused whether the sentence is correct.

Could you please explain in brief the use of 'could' in past tense?

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KANA RAM MEENAWe have been taught that 'could' is to be used in past only when ...

Yes, but they didn't tell you that none of that applies to 'could not'.

Surprisingly, 'could' and 'could not' are treated differently.


We ran very fast, but we could not catch the bus. (We failed to catch the bus.) OK.
We ran very fast, so we could catch the bus. (Intended to say that we succeeded in catching the bus.) NO. Don't use 'could' like this.

However, you can use this, with a different meaning:

We ran very fast so (that) we could catch the bus. (Intended to say that we ran so that we might be able to catch the bus. We ran in order to catch the bus.)


'able to' and 'not able to' do not have this peculiarity.

We ran very fast, but we were not able to catch the bus. (Failed) OK.
We ran very fast, so we were able to catch the bus. (Succeeded.) OK.

CJ

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1. He could not attend the meeting.
2. He was not able to attend the meeting.


They mean the same thing, and both are very commonly used.

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Thanks & Regards

kana ram meena

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