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All Uses Of ‘Could’ In Present, Past & Future Tenses | Modal Verbs | English Grammar Lesson

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In this English grammar lesson, you will learn all the uses of the modal verb Could. Could is a Modal verb and often used in English communication. Many students make mistakes while using Could in spoken English. Learn the correct use of Could in present, past and future tenses.

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Lesson Transcript:-

Could, could is a modal verb and is used to express possibility, a past ability as well as to make suggestions and requests. Could is also used in conditional sentences as the conditional form of CAN.

In this English Grammar lesson, you will learn all the uses of the modal verb Could so that you don’t make any mistakes in spoken English. I am Sara, your English coach. If you are new to this channel, like, subscribe and click the bell, so that you don’t miss any of my new English lessons. Let’s get started.

Take a look at these five sentences.

Building a flyover could ease the traffic in peak hours.

Ryan could sing like a pro by the age of 10.

You could watch a web series or play video games.

Could I use your phone to make a call to my boss?

We could go on a trip If I didn’t have to work this weekend.

The first sentences express a possibility, if a flyover is built, it would help to ease the traffic congestion during peak hours.

The second sentences tells about Ryan’s past ability to sing like a pro.

The third sentence is a suggestion to either watch a movie or play video games while you are at home.

Fourth is a polite request, where someone is asking for your phone to make a call, possibly their phone is out of battery.

And the last sentence is a conditional sentence, It’s an imaginary situation.

So you can use Could to –

Talk about the possibility.

Talk about a past ability.

Make a suggestion or give advice.

For polite requests

And for imaginary situations in conditional sentences.

So you can use COULD in 5 different ways, now let’s understand all the 5 uses of Could in Present, Past and Future Tense with positive and negative statements. I want you to make sentences along with me in the comments, it will help you understand this lesson better and give you a good practice using Could in different tenses.

First, let’s look at using COULD To talk about a possibility.

Ryan could be the one who stole the money.

This sentence in the present tense, it is possible that Ryan stole the money.

Ryan could have been the one who stole the money.

Now we are expressing the same possibility in the PAST tense. Notice the change in the verbs after could, we have added – have + been. Whenever you want to talk about a past possibility using could, could is followed by have and been. Could have been.

Ryan could go to jail for stealing the money.

This sentences indicates a future possibility, we are not sure, but expressing a possibility.

Note the verb ‘GO’ after COULD, it is in it’s base form. When you want to express a future possibility using could, the verb that follows could will always be in its base form.

All these sentences are positive statements, now let’s look at negative statements.

Ryan couldn’t be the one who stole the money.

Here we are talking about a negative possibility of Ryan stealing the money.

In negative sentences could is followed by not and in normal conversation we say the contracted form couldn’t. It sounds natural and fluent.

Ryan couldn’t have been the one who stole the money.

It also indicates a negative possibility but in the past. We have used could+not+ have been.

Ryan couldn’t possibly go to jail for stealing the money.

Again it’s a negative possibility, but in the future, We have used Could+not+base form of the verb GO.

It’s simple, you just have to add a ‘not’ after could to make negative statements. I hope it’s clear until here, now let’s look at using could for suggestions.

Take a look at this sentence.

You could save money for the new camera.

Someone is giving a suggestion to save money to buy a new camera. But, wait a minute, I want you to tell me What tense is this sentence? Is it the present tense? Think about it. Well,  It’s future tense sentence. We don’t use Could for suggestions in the present tense. It’s always in the future when Could is followed by Verb in its base form, in this case Could is followed by save. But you can use Could for past suggestions.

You could have saved money for the new camera. It’s a suggestion in the past.

Could is followed by have and saved – verb in the third form.

Now, look at this sentence –

You couldn’t have saved money for the new camera. Do you think this sentence is correct.? No it’s  incorrect, it doesn’t make any sense. We don’t use Could for suggestions in negative statements.

I hope you got it, how to use Could for suggestions, Now let’s look at using Could for Past Abilities.

I could run 10 Kms in my twenties.

Here could is used followed by the verb in its base form, that’s run, to talk about your ability in your twenties.

I couldn’t run more than a Km in my twenties.

Here could is followed by NOT. It’s a negative statement.

Take a look at this sentence.

Yesterday, I could lift the sofa by myself. Is this sentences correct? Think about it. This sentence is incorrect. You can’t use could in positive sentences in which you describe a one-time ability. You don’t lift sofa everyday, you do it once in a while. But you can say –

Yesterday, I couldn’t lift the Sofa by myself.

It’s a negative statement. You can use could for an one-time ability in negative sentences.

Always keep this in mind. These are some common mistakes you should avoid to make your English perfect.

Now let’s look at using Could for Polite requests. Note Requests usually refer to the near future.

Could I have a cup of coffee?

Couldn’t you make a cup of coffee for me? The first statement is positive and the second one is a negative statement. Let’s look at some more examples.

Could I borrow your computer?

Couldn’t I borrow your computer for a day?

You always use Could I or Could you at the start of the sentence to request something.

Could you come with me for dinner?

Couldn’t you come with us for dinner?

It’s always better to use Could instead of Can for requests, It sound more polite.

And lastly let’s understand how to use Could in conditional sentences, Could is mostly used in third conditional sentences. Situations that are imaginary or hypothetical.

Take a look at this sentence.

If I had more time, I could travel around the world.

Do I have the time, No, I don’t have it, I am busy. It’s just an imagination.

Note this sentence is in the present tense. Let’s say the same sentence in the past.

If I had had more time, I could have travelled around the world.

Again it’s just an imagination. Have you noticed the verbs? There is a had followed by another had and the verb after could is in the third form, travelled. 

Even if I had had more time, I couldn’t have travelled around the world.

That’s a negative statement.

Let’s look at a sentence in the future tense.

If I had more time this year, I could travel around the world.

I am in the middle of the year, The year hasn’t finished yet, and I am going to be busy until the year-end. It’s a wish for the future which is likely to happen.

Even If I had more time this year, I couldn’t travel around the world.

It’s a negative statement, It specifies, although you had the time, it’s imaginary, you don’t have it. still you couldn’t travel because air travel is grounded due to the pandemic. I hope it’s clear.

So we looked at how to use the modal verb Could correctly in different tenses and situations. I hope this lesson was helpful, that’s all for today, I will see you soon with another useful English lesson, until then keep learning, keep practising English.. BYe

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