I’m wondering if the English grammar “rule” given below, which I have heard from numerous non-native speakers, has any validity.
“can” is used for people, animals, and inanimate objects.
“able to” is not used for inanimate objects, only for people and animals (animate objects).
Is this an accurate description of current usage? Was it maybe a prescriptive rule from long ago?
Just a quick Google search for “is able to” and “science” shows the following, and all from prestigious publications or institutions:
In this situation the neuron is able to form new connections.
The material is able to store the gas at a much higher concentration
The human brain is able to recognise a familiar object
The enzyme is able to go on chewing up
The new compound, Pentobra, is able to easily punch holes