"Eles não podiam ver."

Translation:They could not see.

May 27, 2013

18 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/akshay9999

Why is the imperfect indicative used here?

December 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/vinidcali
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Well, "could" could be either imperfect or perfect past.

The main difference is that the PP represents something that happened once in the past, while the IP indicates an ongoing action in the past.
Some people also say that PP should talk about unusual happenings while IP determines habitual/common facts (but this isn't really a 100% accurate science xD).

Eu comi em casa = once, probably before meeting this person I'm talking to, I ate at home.
Eu comia em casa = I used to eat at home, but not anymore. I'm pretty sure in English you would never say "I ate at home" when meaning to say "I used to eat at home", but that would be the literal translation

BUT! "Used to" can't always be translated to IP, because sometimes it has another meaning, like when you use it with "to be" and it becomes "acostumar": I'm used to this = Estou acostumado com isto.

So, here, since we don't have any context, you could use PP and it would be correct (Eles não puderam ver), but I'd say that "Eles não podiam ver" is what comes to mind first. Both sentences sound weird though so it's hard to understand which one we're supposed to use :\

September 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Steven.Garschke

is "they were unable to see" not the same as "they weren't able to see"?

January 17, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/vinidcali
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They are synonyms, for sure, but they're NOT the same:

They weren't able to see = Eles não eram capazes ver (were not = denial = could translate to não podiam/não conseguiam)
They were unable to see = Eles eram/estavam incapazes de ver (there's no denial in this sentence - so we can't translate it to "não podiam/não conseguiam")

It is pretty tricky (and wouldn't make a difference in conversation), but I think DL is right to not accept synonyms because that does help people learn the differences C:

January 18, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Steven.Garschke

I (as a native British English speaker) would say "were not able" and "were unable" have exactly the same meaning as each other and can both be used in permanent or temporary situations.

January 19, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/emeyr
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Vinidcali:

I agree with Steven that "weren't able" and "were unable" have the same meaning.

May 19, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/gxxsh
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Is the 'd' in podiam pronounced j (or soft g) in são paolo?

May 26, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/Melina.Arins
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In certain regions of Brazil, the syllable "di" — as well as "de" when it's a non-stressed final syllable (and more rarely/possibly in the middle of words, but always non-stressed), — is pronounced as

/dʒi/

The very same thing occurs to the syllables "ti" and "te" in similar contexts, pronounced

/tʃi/

There are Brazilian regions, though, where those syllables are simply pronounced as /di/ and /ti/. Both ways are correct, it's just a matter of accent.

March 19, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulenrique
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Every time you have "d+i" it sounds like jee, and also "de" at the end of a word. At least in São Paulo... a regional thing.

May 26, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/jdabell
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'Could' in the sense of 'were not able to'.

December 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/clovis10alberto

They were not able to see

May 19, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Gijom
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Sorry about my english, but the dictionary hints « canned », « were canning »... does that exist???

May 27, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Paulenrique
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The past of can is could. Canned/Canning is a method of preserving/storing something in an airtight container (ex. Canned food). You cant use modal in gerund, so there isnt "were canning"

May 27, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Sally386728
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You are absolutely right, except that it is possible to use "were canning"--in a very specific instance; "They were canning the tuna when something happened in the plant," for example.

I like your explanations, as they are clear and on the mark...a plus for Duo :)

September 3, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/rmacheshire

The hints are wrong! "can" (to be able) is an irregular verb in English. The past tense of "can" is "could". However "can" as a process for preserving food is a regular verb and the past tense is "canned". If English is not your native language you might well be confused, but Duolingo should know better.

October 20, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/cOOlaide117
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Would "They used to not be able to see." be an acceptable translation? The dictionary hints say "podiam" can be "used to be able to"."

January 9, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vinidcali
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For me, "They couldn't see" means that for some reason, at that given time, they weren't able to see. They were blindfolded or the lights went out.

Now, "They used to not be able to see" sounds like they used to be blind and now they can see. If this is true, the sentence would translate to Eles costumavam não poder ver.

If someone is really trying to use your sentence with the same meaning as the DL sentence, then it would be translated as "não podiam ver"... But that's kind of a longshot xD

However, "podiam" is one way proper to translate "be able to". If you want to use "used to" along with that, you need to make sure that it fits the Imperfect Past tense (an ongoing action in the past):
I used to eat at home = Eu comia em casa
You can also translate it to "Eu costumava comer em casa", but no one says it like that because we're used to use "comia" in cases like this.

September 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/emeyr
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Grammatical but very awkward English.

"They couldn't see" / "They weren't able to see" / "They were unable to see" are all preferable to "used not to be able to see."

August 15, 2018
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