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What is the main differences between 能,and 可以? They both mean "to be able to", or simply "can", correct?

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  • consult grammars on modal (auxiliary) verbs, search web using "Chinese auxiliary verbs" – user6065 Jun 7 '16 at 2:27
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There is a substantial difference between the following contrast pair: a. 我能说汉语。 b. 我可以说汉语。 In a., neng 能 indicates that I have the ability to speak Chinese while in b. keyi 可以 implies that this action, my speaking Chinese can be carried out if asked or allowed.

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Neng primarily means that the current CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW you to carry out a certain action. Ke Yi has the sense of being ALLOWED (or asked) to do something. If you want to say, I have the ability to do something, as in an acquired ability such as speaking Chinese, you should definitely use this word.: 会 hui4.

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