could

could
[[t]kəd, STRONG kʊd[/t]]
(Could is a modal verb. It is used with the base form of a verb. Could is sometimes considered to be the past form of can, but in this dictionary the two words are dealt with separately.)
1) MODAL You use could to indicate that someone had the ability to do something. You use could not or couldn't to say that someone was unable to do something.

For my return journey, I felt I could afford the extra and travel first class...

I could see that something was terribly wrong...

He could not resist telling her the truth...

When I left school at 16, I couldn't read or write...

There was no way she could have coped with a baby around.

2) MODAL You use could to indicate that something sometimes happened.

Though he had a temper and could be nasty, it never lasted...

He could be very pleasant when he wanted to.

3) MODAL You use could have to indicate that something was a possibility in the past, although it did not actually happen.

He could have made a fortune as a lawyer...

You could have been killed!...

He did not regret saying what he did but felt that he could have expressed it differently.

4) MODAL You use could to indicate that something is possibly true, or that it may possibly happen.

Doctors told him the disease could have been caused by years of working in smokey clubs...

An improvement in living standards could be years away...

He was jailed in February 1992 and could be released next year.

Syn:
5) MODAL You use could not or couldn't to indicate that it is not possible that something is true.

They argued all the time and thought it couldn't be good for the baby...

Anne couldn't be expected to understand the situation...

He couldn't have been more than fourteen years old.

6) MODAL You use could to talk about a possibility, ability, or opportunity that depends on other conditions.

Their hope was that a new and better East Germany could be born...

I knew that if I spoke to Myra, I could get her to call my father.

7) MODAL You use could when you are saying that one thing or situation resembles another.

The charming characters she draws look like they could have walked out of the 1920s.

8) MODAL You use could, or couldn't in questions, when you are making offers and suggestions.

I could call the local doctor...

We need money right? We could go around and ask if people need odd jobs done or something...

`It's boring to walk all alone.' - `Couldn't you go for walks with your friends?'...

You could look for a career abroad where environmental jobs are better paid and more secure...

It would be a good idea if you could do this exercise twice or three times on separate days.

9) MODAL (politeness) You use could in questions when you are making a polite request or asking for permission to do something. Speakers sometimes use couldn't instead of `could' to show that they realize that their request may be refused.

Could I stay tonight?...

Could I speak to you in private a moment, John?...

I wonder if some time I could have a word with you...

Sir, could you please come to the commanding officer's office?...

Could we go outside just for a second?...

He asked if he could have a cup of coffee...

Couldn't I watch you do it?

10) MODAL (politeness) People sometimes use structures with if I could or could I as polite ways of interrupting someone or of introducing what they are going to say next. [FORMAL, SPOKEN]

Well, if I could just interject...

Could I stop you there?...

Could I ask you if there have been any further problems?...

First of all, could I begin with an apology for a mistake I made last week?

Syn:
11) MODAL (emphasis) You use could to say emphatically that someone ought to do the thing mentioned, especially when you are annoyed because they have not done it. You use why couldn't in questions to express your surprise or annoyance that someone has not done something.

We've come to see you, so you could at least stand and greet us properly...

Idiot! You could have told me!...

He could have written...

Why couldn't she have said something?...

But why couldn't he tell me straight out?

12) MODAL (emphasis) You use could when you are expressing strong feelings about something by saying that you feel as if you want to do the thing mentioned, although you do not do it.

I could kill you! I swear I could!...

`Welcome back' was all they said. I could have kissed them!...

She could have screamed with tension.

13) MODAL You use could after `if' when talking about something that you do not have the ability or opportunity to do, but which you are imagining in order to consider what the likely consequences might be.

If I could afford it I'd have four television sets...

If only I could get some sleep, I would be able to cope.

14) MODAL (emphasis) You use could not or couldn't with comparatives to emphasize that someone or something has as much as is possible of a particular quality. For example, if you say `I couldn't be happier', you mean that you are extremely happy.

The rest of the players are a great bunch of lads and I couldn't be happier...

Darling Neville, I couldn't be more pleased for you...

The news couldn't have come at a better time.

15) MODAL (emphasis) In speech, you use how could in questions to emphasize that you feel strongly about something bad that has happened.

How could you allow him to do something like that?...

How could I have been so stupid?...

How could she do this to me?...

How could you have lied to us all these years?

16) CONVENTION You say `I couldn't' to refuse an offer of more food or drink. [INFORMAL, SPOKEN]

`More cake?' - `Oh no, I couldn't.'

17) could do withsee do

English dictionary. 2008.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • could — [ weak kəd, strong kud ] modal verb *** Could is usually followed by an infinitive without to : I m glad you could come. Sometimes it is used without a following infinitive: I came as quickly as I could. Could does not change its form, so the… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • could — W1S1 [kəd strong kud] modal v negative short form couldn t ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 1¦(past ability)¦ 2¦(possibility)¦ 3¦(emphasizing your feelings)¦ 4¦(requesting)¦ 5¦(suggesting)¦ 6¦(annoyance)¦ 7 couldn t be better/worse/more pleased etc 8 I couldn t …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • could — [kood] v.aux. [altered (infl. by WOULD, SHOULD) < ME coud < OE cuthe (akin to Goth kuntha, OHG konda, ON kunna), pt. of cunnan, to be able: see CAN1] 1. pt. of CAN1 [he gave what he could give] 2 …   English World dictionary

  • could — modal auxiliary. 1. See can. It functions as (1) the past tense of can, as in We could see for miles, (2) as a conditional equivalent to would be able to, as in I could take you in the car if you like, and (3) as a more tentative form of can in… …   Modern English usage

  • Could — (k??d), imp. of {Can}. [OF. coude. The l was inserted by mistake, under the influence of should and would.] Was, should be, or would be, able, capable, or susceptible. Used as an auxiliary, in the past tense or in the conditional present. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • could've — [kood′əv] contraction could have * * * …   Universalium

  • could've — (could have) v. used to express the possibility that one may have been able to do something …   English contemporary dictionary

  • could — could; could·est; …   English syllables

  • could've — [kood′əv] contraction could have …   English World dictionary

  • could|n't — «KUD uhnt», could not …   Useful english dictionary

  • could — O.E. cuðe, pt. of cunnan to be able (see CAN (Cf. can) (v.)); ending changed 14c. to standard English d(e). The excrescent l was added 15c. 16c. on model of would, should, where it is historical …   Etymology dictionary

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