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In a negative sentence, the preterite of  poder  means that one could not do something at a specific  time. In order for there to have been a specific time when one could not do something, the idea is  that one tried and failed. Here are some examples of  poder  in the imperfect and preterite tenses in  affirmative and negative situations:  Imperfect affirmative:   poder  = was able, could do something  Constanza podía cantar como un pájaro.   Constanza could (was able to) sing like a bird. Preterite affirmative:   poder  = managed to do something  Esteban pudo subir la montaña.   Esteban managed to climb the mountain. Imperfect negative:   poder  = wasn't able, couldn't do something (assumed)  Nadie podía cambiar la ley.   Nobody could change the law. Preterite negative:
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