Present and past ability sentence completion games

Present and past ability sentence completion things in common

Tell and ask your partner about present and past abilities and try to make sentences such as those below which are true for both of you.  

Present and past ability sentence completion guessing game

Perhaps after a few minutes filling in some of the sentences, choose one of the phrases below and say just the part that you completed it with (not the part that is written below). See if your partner can guess which sentence you put those words in.

Useful phrases for doing the activity

“No, that can’t be true, because…”

“Well, that could be true, but in fact…”
“That is true, but it’s not the sentence I was thinking of. Please try again”

“Yes, that’s right. It’s your turn”


Present and past ability sentence completion bluffing game

Choose one of the sentences below and make a true or made up sentence using those words. Perhaps after asking you for more details, the other students will guess if your sentence is true or false.

Past ability grammar presentation

Without looking below, put as many different forms as you can into each gap. Note that if you don’t remember the form being in that gap below, it’s probably because it was wrong. 

  • I ___________________________________… (in the past/ before) but I can’t anymore.
  • I ___________________________ when I was 10 years old/ younger (but I can now).
  • Luckily, I ____________________________________________________________ when I last went abroad/ when someone asked me to.
  • Unfortunately, I _______________________________________________________ last year/ (one day) when I needed to/ last month.

Check your answers below.

Why can’t you say “Luckily, I could… when…”?

Why can’t you say “I didn’t manage to… when I was… but I can now”?

Which verbs can be used to talk about past general abilities, e.g. when a certain age?

Which verbs can be used to talk about particular moments in time, e.g. when telling a story? How about with negative verbs?

Which verb is the most generally useable and so the safe choice if you aren’t sure which ones are right?


Suggested present and past sentences to complete

  • I can _______________________________________________________ very well.
  • I can _______________________________________________________ quite well.
  • I can ________________________________________________________ fairly well.
  • I can ___________________________________________________ but not very well.
  • I can _____________________________________________________, but only just.
  • I’m able to _________________________________ without looking at what I am doing.
  • I’m able to ___________________________________ with my hands behind my back.
  • I’m not able to _________________________________ without someone helping me.
  • I have tried many times to ____________________________________ but I still can’t.
  • I’m the only one in my family who can _______________________________________
  • I’m the only person I know who can’t ________________________________________
  • All my friends can ______________________________________________, but I can’t.
  • I can’t ____________________________________ yet, but I’m going to keep on trying.
  • I could (in the past) ______________________________________ but I can’t anymore.
  • I was able to (before) ____________________________________ but I can’t anymore.
  • I couldn’t ______________________________ when I was 10 years old (but I can now).
  • I wasn’t able to _____________________________ when I was younger but I can now.
  • I couldn’t __________________________________________________ until I was 12.
  • I wasn’t able to ______________________________________________ until I was 5.
  • Luckily, I was able to _________________________________ when I last went abroad.
  • Luckily, I managed to _____________________________ when someone asked me to.
  • I managed to ___________________________________________ to help someone.
  • Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ______________________________________ last year.
  • Unfortunately, I couldn’t ____________________________ (one day) when I needed to.
  • Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to __________________________________ last month.


PDF for easy saving and printing: present-past-ability-sentence-completion

Related pages

Can/ Can’t page

42 EFL finding things in common games (TEFLtastic classics part 25)