'Could' can be used to talk about the past, the present or the future.

'Could' is a past form of 'can'

  • When I was living in Boston, I could walk to work.
  • He phoned to say he couldn't come.
  • I could see him clearly but I couldn't hear him and then the videoconference line went dead.

'Could' is used to make polite requests. We can also use 'can' for these but 'could' is more polite.

  • Could you help me, please?
  • Could you lend me some money?
  • Could I have a lift?
  • Could I bother you for a moment?

If we use 'could' in reply to these requests, it suggests that we do not really want to do it. If you agree to the request, it is better to say 'can'

  • Of course I can.
  • I could help you if it's really necessary but I'm really busy right now.
  • I could lend you some money but I'd need it back tomorrow without fail.
  • I could give you a lift as far as Birmingham.

'Could' is used to talk about theoretical possibility and is similar in meaning to 'might'.

  • It could rain later. Take an umbrella.
  • He could be there by now.
  • Could he be any happier?
  • It could be Sarah's.

 

 

exercise 1

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