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5 Sep 2018

Korean Near fluent
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Question about English (US)

Question about usage of "could", and "was/were able to"



I've learned that "could" cannot be used in a specific situation or at a specific time in the past, and instead of "could", "was/were able to" must be used.


The traffic was very bad, but he could catch the train. (X)
The traffic was very bad, but he was able to catch the train. (O)




I've also learned that "could" can be used when it describes general ability in the past and "was/were able to" is also possible.


When I was young, I could run very fast. (O)
When I was young, I was able to run very fast. (O)

I could play the piano. (O)
I was able to play the piano. (O)

I could remember his name. (O)
I was able to remember his name. (O)

I could understand what he explained to me. (O)
I was able to understand what he explained to me. (O)



Because of these two rules, I am really confused.
I think the following expressions are a combination of a specific situation(a specific time) and general ability in the past.


1. The room was so noisy, but I could hear what he said. (???)
2. I could something burning even though I had a bad cold. (???)



Is it possible to use "could" in both sentences?
Otherwise, do I have to use "was able to" in both sentences?




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