COULD – Modal Verb

  • Auteur/autrice de la publication :
  • Post category:grammar

Uses : Ability, Past form of CAN, with senses verbs, action not realistic, polite request,
« COULD » can be used to talk about the past, the present or the future.

COULD is a modal verb (called « modal »).
Modals are used before ordinary verbs.

1/ COULD = « ability ».
Could you do that? Yes, I could.

2/ COULD = possibility (in theory).
Here, could = might, with a similar meaning
It could rain later. Children, take the umbrella please.
He could be here.
He could be right.
Do you think it could be true?
It could be John’s car.

3/ COULD = past form of CAN. (sometimes).
I live in campaign, I can see cows. When I was living in campaign, I could see cows.
I live in town, I can go to work by bus. When I was living in town, I could go to work by bus.
With the traffic, he’s late, he can’t come. With the traffic, he was late, and couldn’t come.
She phoned to say she couldn’t come. I couldn’t see the robber, it was the night, and dark.

4/ COULD specially with sense verbs: feel, hear, see, smell, taste,
He could reach the light-house, and was saved.
I couldn’t hear her, so we stopped the talk on by skype.

5/ COULD about action who are not realistic:
I can do a realistic action (with can).
I couldn’t do a realistic action (so, we use could).

6/ COULD with remember, understand:
Could you remember this girl?
Could you understand me?

7/ COULD = to make a polite request. (as CAN, but COULD is better and more polite).
Could I have a seat? Could I bother you for a moment please?
Could you help me, please? Could you lend me some money? I need cash.

Could you help me?
Yes, I can. => You agree the request! (Answer with CAN)
Yes, I could. => You don’t agree the request! (Answer with COULD) (you don’t want to do it).
Of course, I can help you! (You agree the request).
I could help you if you need, but I’ve a lot of work, you know? (You don’t agreee the request).

Could you do that?

I could not see him (I couldn’t see him).
I couldn’t do that.
There are two negative forms: couldn’t or could not.
Use could not when you write, couldn’t (contracted form) when you speak!

COULD I … ? : is used to ask the permission to somebody.
Could I open the window?

COULD you … ? : you ask to somebody some help.
Could you tell me where is the train station, please?