2

I have been able to buy the house I spoke of the other day. (1)

Does (1) mean that I bought the house?

I was able to buy the house I spoke of the other day. (2)

I was able to buy the house I had spoken of the other day. (3)

Do (2) and (3) have the same meaning as (1)?

1

In sentence 2 you talk abot something that happened in the past. In sentence 1 you inform someone that is new to him. If the speaker says he was able to buy the house then he bought it, no doubt.

0

The English language can be notoriously ambiguous in its syntax, and I think this is a good example.

I have been able to buy the house I spoke of the other day.

This means that the speaker has been able (for an undefined amount of time extending to the present) to buy the house, but says nothing regarding whether he completed the purchase.

I was able to buy the house I spoke of the other day.

This means the speaker actually bought the house - interestingly, it also says nothing about whether he had been able to do so for an undefined amount of time (it could have been that he had just become able to do so and he did it)

I was able to buy the house I had spoken of the other day.

Semantically, this is the same as (2) - that is, the speaker did buy the house. It's probably preferable to (2) in terms of grammar

  • 1
    This is a good answer, except I think that your first example does mean he completed the purchase. – Mark Hubbard Jan 31 '16 at 16:42
  • The first one, "I have been able to buy the house I spoke of the other day.".....this can also say that you bought the house, ie, that its been done. (the act of buying). – rkchl Jan 31 '16 at 16:54
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    At least to me, it indicates it's ambiguous. The use of have been able, in my opinion, places emphasis precisely on the fact that the speaker has been able to purchase (and not on the purchasing itself). – Digital Dracula Jan 31 '16 at 18:41
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    It's perhaps easier to discern if you think I have been able to buy a car (for months) vs I was (finally) able to buy a car (last week) – Digital Dracula Jan 31 '16 at 18:49
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    The first can be taken either way. Most people would understand it to mean the house has been purchased, but the speaker may have intended otherwise. – Hot Licks May 31 '16 at 0:07
-2

None of these state that the purchaser actually made a purchase lmao.........................being able to do something—no matter how it’s stated—is not equal to actually doing that thing..............”I was able” insinuates purchase, but doesn’t confirm it

  • Can you provide any citation, explanation, or other support for your answer? Could you try to make it conform to normal written English standards with respect to use of punctuation? – nohat Aug 14 at 19:33

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