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Advanced Grammar in Use: Third Edition by Martin Hewings, Published by Cambridge Press, Copyright 2015, Unit 15 page 30.

Even though I have provided the reference, I would prefer that you not look at the source reference and instead just answer this question using your own natural speech.

While I encourage anyone to reply, I am particularly interested in the responses by a native British speaker. I want to compare my responses with those of a British speaker.

Please consider the following four sentences, and let me know which, if any, are acceptable.

1. Anyone was allowed to fish in the lake when the council owned it.

2. Anyone could fish in the lake when the council owned it.

3. Although he didn't have a ticket, Ned was allowed to come in.

4. Although he didn't have a ticket, Ned could to come in.

5. Although he didn't have a ticket, Ned could come in. (This is an edit after CalifJim spotted the typo in Sentence 4.)

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I speak American English, but I doubt there's any difference in this case between AmE and BrE.

1 and 2 are equivalent and both are correct. 3 is also OK.

4 is faulty. It's "Ned could come in" (no "to"). But even with that correction, 4 is not possible because 'could' can't be used to convey the idea of success at doing something.

CJ

Comments  
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.

The next paragraph is a quote from the book.


To say that someone in the past had general permission to do something — that is, to do it at any time — we can use either could or was / were allowed to. However, to talk about permission for one particular past action, we use was / were allowed to, but not could.


Compare: (the four examples (1,2,3,5) shown earlier)

Does this explanation make sense to you, CalifJim? It seems that "could" can be used to convey success if it is for general permission.

When I look at Webster's, I see could (auxiliary verb)

- as an alternative to can suggesting less force or certainty or as a polite form in the present

// If you could come, we would be pleased.

Am I completely missing the mark?

The fifth sentence seemed fine to me. I don't see why general permission versus one particular past action makes a difference. But you and the author both object to it. So my thinking must be incorrect. If you could review this post and offer a few more comments, perhaps with that I will have a better understanding.

As I am thinking out loud, perhaps could implies a general sense of being able to. For sentence 5, it's almost as though could implies it was his decision whether to come or not when, in fact, he was lucky that he was able to come in. So could doesn't work for a particular past action. Does this make any sense?

Thank you for your help.

MountainHiker

When I look at Webster's, I see could (auxiliary verb)

- as an alternative to can suggesting less force or certainty or as a polite form in the present

// If you could come, we would be pleased.

This usage of 'could' is not relevant to the current discussion. We're talking about a different usage of 'could'. See the following links.

What are the differences between "can" and "be able to"?
can/am,is,are able to
Use of 'could' in past tense

MountainHikerTo say that someone in the past had general permission to do something — that is, to do it at any time — we can use either could or was / were allowed to. However, to talk about permission for one particular past action, we use was / were allowed to, but not could.

Yes.

This is only slightly different from the situation discussed in the links above. The same principles apply.

(2) cannot be used to mean (1) below.

(1) He was allowed to play football with the older boys.
(2) He could play football with the older boys.

(1) implies (or almost implies) "and he did (play football with the older boys on that occasion)".
(2) implies "if he wanted to (but we don't know if he did or not)".

CJ

Thank you very much, CalifJim. I read your past examples, and everything clicked. I appreciate your extra effort to refer me to your prior posts. Emotion: smile

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