We all have learned about 'modals' in English grammar and today we'll focus on how to use COULD in different situations.Technically, modals are verbs which help other verbs to express them better or to add a meaning to them.In other words, a modal verb (also called as modal, modal auxiliary verb, or modal auxiliary) is a type of verb that is used to indicate modality – that is: likelihood, ability, permission, and obligation.
it is important to realize that these "modal verbs" have no meaning by themselves and they are always used in accordance with the situation or the expression and intent of the speaker.
The best way to move forward in language learning is to take one step at a time and today's step is about the usage of 'modal verb' – COULD.The following is your one-stop guide to the proper usage of “could” for every situation.
Could is used as a way to express a possibility or past ability as well as to make suggestions and polite requests.
To show possibility
- It could rain later, take an umbrella.
- Just be careful while crossing the road because it's dangerous and you could hurt yourself.
To show past ability
- He couldn't ( could not ) dance at all until he took lessons.
- She could speak French when she was a child, but now she has forgotten it.
To make suggestions or to give advice
- If you ever feel bored, you could go and see a movie in the PVR nearby.
- You could talk to your father and ask him to loan you some money.
To make polite requests
- Could we go home now?
- Could you send me the details of yesterday's meeting?
CAN V/S COULD
To make Request
Technically, 'could’ is the past tense of “can” but at times, while making a request or asking for a favor, ‘could’ is considered as a more polite option. Usage of ‘can’ is more of a casual/informal approach whereas ‘could’ brings a formal touch your sentence.
For example, if you are at a restaurant, it's always a better choice to use ‘could’ to ask for or order something.
- Could I have the menu?
- Could I have a cappuccino with extra foam?
Now in the same situation, if you use ‘can’ instead of ‘could’, it may sound a little rude. However, it doesn't mean that we cannot use 'can' at all and when you do, then add ‘please’ in your sentence to give it a polite touch. For example:
- Can I have the menu, please?
- Can I have my bill, please?
To show Ability
Furthermore, both ‘can’ and ‘could’ are used to show your ability and the only difference is that use of ‘can’ shows your present ability and also something that may happen in the future (and it depends on what you are doing in present).
- He can swim like a fish.(present ability)
- Through hard work and discipline, one can achieve everything.(future ability)
We have already discussed above the use of ‘could’ to show ability.
To offer help
it's advised to use 'can' while offering to help someone.
- Can I help you with anything?
- Can I do that for you?
Also, whenever someone asks you for help or makes a request, you should always try to reply using ‘can’ because 'could', in such a situation, implies that you are unsure about giving your help to the person. Using 'can' is more assuring in nature.
Q. I’m a little short on cash these days, could you lend me some money?
Ans. Yes, I can loan you the money.
Q. Can you please help me with my English assignment?
Ans. Sure I can.
COULD HAVE / COULD'VE…
We use 'could have' to talk about something somebody was capable of doing but didn't do.
- I could have become a doctor but I chose to become a teacher.
- I could have studied until noon, but then my friend came over and we went for shopping.
- You could have helped me instead of just sitting there.
- Simon could have told her the truth when he got the chance, but now it's too late.
- They could have at least informed me about canceling the plan.
COULD NOT HAVE / COULDN'T HAVE…
On the other hand, if we need to give someone the credit of our capability to do something or to express the impossibility of something to happen without a particular reason, we use COULD NOT HAVE or COULDN'T HAVE.
- I could not / couldn't have passed the course without your help.
- The team could not / couldn't have won the game if they had not trained so intensively.
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