- The definition of could is often used in the place of "can" to show a little doubt.
- An example of could is someone asking if they can help someone.
- An example of could is saying that something is able to happen if someone does something.
- can: he gave what he could give
- used as a modal auxiliary in verbal phrases with present or future time reference, generally equivalent to can in meaning and use, with the following functions:
- expressing esp. a shade of doubt or a smaller degree of ability or possibility: it could be so
- expressing permission: could I go?
- forming the present conditional: it would help if he could wait
- forming the past conditional: he would have left if he could
- expressing or suggesting politely less certainty than can: could you wait?
Origin of couldaltered (infl. by would, should) ; from Middle English coud ; from Old English cuthe (akin to Gothic kuntha, Old High German konda, Old Norse kunna), past tense of cunnan, to be able: see can
aux.v.Past tense of can1.
- Used to indicate ability or permission in the past: I could run faster then. Only men could go to the club in those days.
- Used with hypothetical or conditional force: If we could help, we would.
- Used to indicate tentativeness or politeness: I could be wrong. Could you come over here?
- simple past tense of can
- Used as a past indicative.
- Before I was blind, I could see very well.
- Used as a past subjunctive (irrealis).
- I think he could do it if he really wanted to.
- I wish I could fly!
- Used as a past indicative.
- Used to politely ask for permission to do something.
- Could I borrow your coat?
- Used to politely ask for someone else to do something.
- Could you proofread this email?
- Used to show the possibility that something might happen.
- We could rearrange the time if you like.
- Used to suggest something.
- You could try adding more salt to the soup.
From Middle English coude, from Old English cuþ, preterite form of cunnan (“to be able”). The addition of the silent 'l' was likely a misappropriation attempting to normalize with modal verbs will/would and shall/should. However, while the letter l was historically pronounced in the latter two, can never did have an l sound in it.
Variant of can
- know(s) how to
- am, are, or is able to
- am, are, or is likely or at all likely to: can that be true?
- have or has the moral or legal right to
- Informal am, are, or is permitted to; may
Origin of canMiddle English ; from Old English 1st and amp; 3d person; personal (grammar) singular , present tense indicative , of cunnan, know, have power to, be able; common Germanic ; from Indo-European base an unverified form gen-, an unverified form gno- from source Classical Latin gnoscere, know; origin, originally meaning “to be able mentally or spiritually,” as distinguished from may, “to be able physically”
- know(s) how
- am, are, or is able: yes I can
- am, are, or is likely or at all likely
- have or has the moral or legal right
- Informal am, are, or is permitted; may