Different usages of COULD in English

use of could
use of could

In this post, we understand the use of could in Engish. Could is a modal auxiliary verb that is used to express the possibility, ability and requests, and permissions. It is also used in conditional sentences to express the possibility or the ability.


  • We could win this match. (possibility)
    (It is possible for us to win this match.)
  • Monu could finish the entire lamb on his lamb. (ability)
    (Monu has the ability to finish this entire lamb on his lamb.)
  • Could you pass me the bottle? (Request)
  • You could go home now. It is getting late. (Giving permission)
  • If we could have won the match if Jon had not been ill. (Conditional sentence)
  • We could go for dinner after the class. (Suggestion)
Different usages of COULD in English
Different usages of COULD in English

Let’s understand all the usages of COULD separately in detail.

1. Could for ABILITY

The modal ‘could’ is often used to express the ability of a situation in the past or the present.


  • He could beat us in chess right now.
    (He has the ability to beat us in chess right now.)
  • Rohan could eat all of this.
    (Rohan has the ability to eat all of this.)

Note: we generally use the modal ‘can‘ to express the ability in the present. But the modal ‘could’ can also be used.


Here, we use could as the past form of can.

  • He could lift me a few years back.
    (A few years back, he had the ability to lift me.)
  • I could speak Chinese in school.
    (When I was in school, I had the ability to speak Chinese.)
  • She couldn’t draw well a few years back.
    (She did not have the ability to draw well a few years back.)

2. Could for POSSIBILITY

Mangesh could be in Bangalore right now.
They could be in trouble. Let’s go and check on them.
Aarushi could be upset with you. That is why she didn’t join us.
I could pass the exam if I had a person to guide me.
She could have come with us if her parents had not gone out.
FutureIt could rain today.
They could call you tomorrow for a demo class.

3. Could for REQUEST

Could is often used to make a request. It is considered very polite and formal.


  • Could you drop me to at work?
  • Could I use your phone for a minute to make an urgent call? Mine is not working.
  • Could you please teach me how to dance?
  • Could I come with you?

4.Could for PERMISSION

Asking for permission

  • Could I date your sister? I won’t if you don’t allow it.
  • Could I use your laptop for some time?
  • Could I sit on your spot?

Giving permission

  • You could bring your friends on the trip. Just make sure they don’t create havoc there.
  • You could go back to your work. You are not needed here anymore.
  • You could come in.

Note: in order to prohibit someone from doing something, use ‘can’t’. We don’t use couldn’t.

  • You can’t park your car here?
  • Students can’t use a calculator in the exam.

5. Could for SUGGESTION

The modal verb could is also used to give suggestions.


  • We could go shopping in the evening. That would be fun.
  • You could go to Shimla for your honeymoon. That is a nice place.
  • Until you find a place to live, you could live at my place.
  • We could eat Chinese or Italian food.


Could is also used in conditional sentences, usually to indicate the possibility of an event.


  • I did not have an exam tomorrow, I could join you on the trip. (Type 2 conditional sentence)
  • The doctors could have saved his life if he had been taken to the hospital on time. (Type 3 conditional sentence)
  • If you work hard, you could clear the exam. (Type 1 conditional sentence)

Feel free to correct any typing mistakes you come across. Contact me at englishwithashish@gmail.com for one-on-one classes.


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