I know it literally means that, but it is used sometimes almost as an idiomatic statement. Such as: "I wasn't able to find them." Sure they had the capability of finding whatever it was they were looking for, but just didn't find it. In Spanish it is different? Also, for "capaz" would one say "soy capaz" then? I thought "soy" was only used in permanent instances such as, "Yo soy una mujer," and "estoy" was for temporary such as, "Estoy cansada." I mention this because one can be capable of something at one moment, and not the next; thereby rendering "capaz" as temporary. P.S. Thank you for your response!
Being 'capaz' is like saying you're 'fully able' or 'an expert'. So it isn't always about training, but certainly about skills. For instance, you could use 'capaz' to describe somebody's capacity to be treacherous. I'm just pulling this rule of thumb out of the air because I'm at a loss to describe it better, but I'd say don't use 'capaz' for 'able' unless you could say 'very much able' or 'incredibly skilled' without changing the meaning. You can use it idiomatically; it is just a matter of doing it correctly.
At first I was a little intimidated at discussing the "ser/estar" difference for the millionth time, because it can get so confusing quickly. But then I realized that this actually helps with understanding how 'capaz' is usually used. A "rule" that everybody is often taught when learning Spanish is that ser is permanent and estar is not. This isn't really always true. It is an attempt at (over) simplifying a Spanish concept for English speakers. There are so many exceptions to this "rule" because it isn't the best way of describing the difference. This is precisely why it is so confusing to learn.
I think a better way (I still haven't found the perfect way) of explaining the difference is to use the word 'essential'. Ser is about something that is part of (noun's) being, not what it is being (estar). So when you think of professions, maybe this helps explain why ser is used. You aren't born a doctor, but once you've acquired the skills to be one, they become part of who you are. You don't tend to forget how to be a doctor unless you have a stroke or some other horrible head trauma. Time is also ser, despite this minute being temporary. This is because this moment is essentially this moment (9:18 by my clock). This moment isn't 'being' 9:18 and then changing into a different moment. The next moment is a different moment. That last minute will always be that minute. This explanation can break down philosophically, but that is the way we conceptually think of time. There are many other things to discuss, but I don't know that this is the right place to type a longer essay than I've already written.
As for capaz, maybe this helps. Capaz is capable in the sense that it is part of who you are or something that you tend to be able to do all the time if necessary, not momentarily able. So you can be capaz of doing anything if it means you have learned skills or there is something essential about you that makes you able to do it. Think about people who are good liars. They are capaz.
@THeNeeno Duo isn't letting me reply to your comment, but I just wanted to say thank you! I found your response to be very helpful. You made it very clear, and I definitely have a better understanding of it now. :-) I'm giving you a lingot, it's the least I could do for the amount of time/work/effort you put into your answer.
'Can't' is there because the English requires it. In learning a language, you need to look for the translation which is closest in communicating the meaning of the words while still making sense. Not including 'can' because you don't think you see it in the Spanish means you're looking at word for word. But we're not translating word for word, are we? Otherwise, we'd be translating “(I) No find keys." (present tense).
In English, the way to say this in the manner which is most true to the words and the sentiment being expressed is “I can't find my keys." in most cases. Note that this could also be “I don't find my keys." but that is almost always an unnatural thing to say in English. This sentence is “I (negated) find my keys." in the first person present tense. 'Can't' is required by the English not the Spanish.
No, that depends completely on the intent of the speaker. You are correct in most cases, but when people say they can't find their keys, they don't always mean that they don't posses the power to find their keys. Sometimes they just mean that they haven't found their keys yet. They do have the power to (and will) find their keys (poder). They just haven't yet. I agree that precision is best, but sometimes language is more idiomatic than literal. The best translation is the one which communicates the precise intent. Language's purpose is communication of ideas. This sometimes mean that you must change things slightly. I think it's best to change things only enough to ensure that the listener receives the intended meaning. Things have to make sense in the language being spoken.
jellonz- You ask a very good question. Yes, sometimes 'poder' speaks not to whether or not you have the power to do something, but rather to whether or not you have permission. This does actually speak to 'power' indirectly; somebody else has the power to deny you the right to do something. 'Poder' is also used to ask things of people sometimes politely: "¿Podrías hacerme un favor?" Again, out of politeness, you are implying that they have the power to grant you the favor. We don't always think directly in terms of 'power' when we say 'poder', but it is almost always understandable as such if you think about it.
It is true, that just as "can't" is sometimes used in English when not speaking about "power", 'poder' is sometimes used similarly. It also is used to say something 'may' happen. I have heard people say "No puedo encontrar las llaves." among other things that somebody "can't" do. This verb is used this way. However, I have on many occasions heard the quick reply, "¿Cómo que no puedes?" Perhaps it is a question of pedanticism, but many teachers, parents, and grandparents spend a great deal of time correcting the use of 'poder'.
Maybe I've just been surrounded by Spanish pedants all my life, but it seems that in formal situations (which includes speaking to your parents/grandparents), I have never heard it be accepted to use 'poder' unless it was necessary.
Thanks THeNeeno, the effort you have put into this discussion is commendable. Although I agree with you regarding intent, I would argue that "can't" in the English is meaning exactly that: "I am unable to [at present]." The question for me then: is "poder" not used similarly in Spanish? For example: "Aquí no se puede fumar"="You can't smoke here." Not that the ability is lacked, just that the situation doesn't allow it. So, "no puedo encontrar las llaves"="I can't find the keys." Similarly, not that the ability is lacked, just that the present situation isn't allowing it. Would Spanish speakers never use "poder" in this way?
So I am having a big insight into Spanish, (Latin American Spanish), at this time. The simplest way to say anything at all in Spanish, and the least amount of effort required to say anything in Spanish should be attempted when speaking Spanish. Any attempt, (as is the case with many languages), any attempt to bend Spanish to the grammatical constructions of your native language, or another language have a much, much higher probability of being a poor choice. Therefore, "Be Spanish".
Encuentro has a wider range than most English speakers use the word 'find' for, but it is definitely used as 'find'. 'Hallar' is a little tricky. It does mean 'to find'. The tricky part is that isn't used everywhere, and in some regions, there is a slight variance on which verb is used in certain circumstances.
To some, encontrar means more to stumble across something in a chance encounter, while hallar means you were looking for it and located it. Others make no such distinction. Everybody will understand you if you use 'encontrar'.