From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary Englishcouldcould /kəd; strong kʊd/ ●●●S1W1 modal verb (negative short form couldn’t)1past abilityCAN used as the past tense of ‘can’ to say what someone was able to do or was allowed to do in the pastBy the time she was eight, she could read Greek and Latin.In those days you could buy a box of cigars for a dollar.Could you hear what I was saying?I couldn’t get tickets after all, they were sold out.I knew I couldn’t afford the rent.The teacher said we could all go home.2possibilityMAYBEa)used to say that something is possible or might happenMost accidents in the home could be prevented.It could be weeks before we get a reply.If you’re not careful, you could get into even worse trouble.A faulty connection could easily (=would be likely to) cause a fire.b)used to say that something was a possibility in the past, but did not actually happenSomebody could have been killed.I could have warned you if I had known where you were.He could have escaped, but he chose to fight.3emphasizing your feelings spoken used to emphasize how happy, angry etc you are by saying how you want to express your feelingsHe irritates me so much I could scream.I was so angry I could have killed her.I was so relieved I could have kissed them all.4requestingASK FOR something/ASK somebody TO DO something spoken used to make a politerequestCould you help me with these boxes?Could I have a drink of water, please?How about Sam? Could he come along too?I wonder if I could just ask you to sign this.5suggestingSUGGEST used to suggest doing somethingYou could ask your doctor for a check-up.You could always try phoning her at the office.Maybe we could get together sometime next week?Couldn’t you get one of your friends to help you?
6annoyanceANNOY spoken used to show that you are annoyed about someone’s behaviourYou could have told me you were going to be late (=you should have told me but you did not)!You could at least say that you’re sorry.How could you be so stupid!7 →couldn’t be better/worse/more pleased etc8 →I couldn’t9 →could do with something → could do worse (than)at worse1(5), → couldn’t care lessat care2(5), → couldn’t agree moreat agree(1)GRAMMAR: Patterns with could• You use could with the base form of the verb (=the infinitive without ‘to’): The teacher said we could go home.He could be in his office.• You say Could I? when asking for permission: Could I use your phone?• You say that something could have happened: The team could have won.They could already have gone home.• You use couldn’t or could not in negative sentences: We couldn’t see anything.That could not be true.
Examples from the Corpus
could• Eleanor couldn't come last night.• I'm sure Francis could find out for you.• There's no way you could go by yourself, Kay.• Dad said we could go swimming after lunch.• You guys could go to the SirloinSaloon for a nice big steak.• What about Sam? Could he come along, too?• I don't think I could live with someone like that.• Nobodycould tell my hair was dirty.• We could use plasticcups, so we don't have to wash anything.• Could you drop off the kids on your way to work?• Could you have her call me back when she gets home, please?• Could you hear that all right?could easily• We could easilyafford it, and you and Edith have always been close.• But this Strategycould easilybackfire, since strenuousexercise would Simply produce more lactic acid, making the situation worse.• Furthersolutionscould easily be obtained using this method.• And if you failed, no one noticed and you could easilydisappear.• I could easily have become a scapegoat.• It surprised me but it could easily have been tiredness from being out so long.• The first meeting between these strangerscould easily produce a shock that reverberated throughout the marriage.• This is a problem which the band themselves could easilysolve by restructuring their mediapolicy.could always• She could alwaysclaim this was a break period, but on the whole it was easier if her movements remained unobserved.• But he was right, I knew: they could always have another one.• Her remark that she could always have stayed home and made cookies has discomfited Republicans, not least Barbara Bush.• You could always hear the voice beneath the words.• They could always say that they were sick.• Calvin Smith, the world-record holder, could alwaysspring a surprise.• He tried to keep it secret-how much it hurt-but I could always tell..• They could always write his lines on his shirt-cuff.could at least• If I made that kind of money, I figure I could at least afford a comb.• It is not that difficult to cobble together a budget that could at least appear to be balanced within five years.• Finally she says to me: You could at leastclean that damn thing every once in a while.• He could at least cover his mouth.• You would think that with all the money I make, I could at least have a decent place to sleep.• I thought he could at least have tried new words.• Well, you could at leastsend a photograph.