could Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary Cambridge dictionaries logo

Meaning of “could” in the English Dictionary

"could" in British English

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couldverb

uk   us   strong /kʊd/ weak /kəd/
  • could verb (CAN)

A2 past simple of "can", used to ​talk about what someone or something was ​able or ​allowed to do: When I was ​younger I could ​stay up all ​night and not get ​tired. It was so ​noisy that we couldn't ​hear ourselves ​speak. You said we could ​watch TV when we ​finishedourhomework. We ​asked if the ​computer could ​access the internet.

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couldmodal verb

uk   us   strong /kʊd/ weak /kəd/
  • could modal verb (PERMISSION)

B1 used as a more ​politeform of "can" when ​asking for ​permission: Could I ​speak to Mr Davis, ​please? Excuse me, could I just say something?

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  • could modal verb (REQUEST)

A2 used as a more ​politeform of "can" when ​asking someone to ​provide something or do something: Could you ​lend me £5? Could you ​turn that ​music down a little, ​please?

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  • could modal verb (POSSIBILITY)

B1 used to ​expresspossibility, ​especiallyslight or ​uncertainpossibility: A lot of ​crime could be ​prevented. She could ​arriveanytime now. This new ​drug could be an ​importantstep in the ​fight against ​cancer. Be ​careful with that ​stick - you could havehityoursister!

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  • could modal verb (SUGGESTION)

B1 used for making a ​suggestion: We could go out for a ​drink after ​worktomorrow, if you ​want. You could alwayscall Susie and ​see if she will ​babysit.

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(Definition of could from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"could" in American English

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could

 us   /kʊd, kəd/
  • could (CAN)

past simple of can: You said we could ​watchtelevision when we ​finishedourhomework. When I was ​younger I could ​stay up all ​night and then go to ​work.

couldmodal verb

 us   /kʊd, kəd/
  • could modal verb (ASK PERMISSION)

(present tense could) used as a more ​politeform of can when ​asking for ​permission: Could I ​speak to Mr. Harley, ​please?
  • could modal verb (REQUEST)

(present tense could) used as a more ​politeform of can when making a ​request: Could you ​lend me $5?
  • could modal verb (BE POSSIBLE)

used to ​expresspossibility, esp. ​slight or ​uncertainpossibility: A lot of these ​problems could be ​prevented. It could be ​days before we ​hear from her. I could have been an ​actor.
  • could modal verb (SUGGEST)

(present tense could) used for making a ​suggestion: We could go to the ​movies.
  • could modal verb (SHOULD)

(present tense could) used for saying what you ​think someone ​else should do: You could ​try to ​look a little more ​enthusiastic.
(Definition of could from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
Translations of “could”
in Korean “can”의 과거형, 허락을 구할때 “can”보다 공손한 표현으로 “could”가 쓰임, 가능성이 있음을 표현할 때 쓰임…
in Arabic يُمكِن, يَسْتَطيع, هَل بالإمْكان؟…
in Malaysian boleh, mungkin…
in French pouvoir…
in Russian прош. вр. гл. can, может, мог бы…
in Chinese (Traditional) 能, (表示能夠或允許)能,可以…
in Italian usato come passato semplice di “can” per esprimere capacità o permesso al passato, usato come forma più gentile di “can” per chiedere permesso di fare qualcosa, usato per esprimere ciò che è possibile o che potrebbe accadere…
in Turkish can' fiilinin geçmiş zaman hali, bir şeyin olma olasılığını anlatmada kullanılır, bir şeyi nazikçe istemede veya sormada kullanılır…
in Polish mógł itp., można było, może…
in Spanish pasado del verbo ‘‘poder’’, para expresar posibilidad…
in Vietnamese chỉ sự cho phép, sự bày tỏ khả năng…
in Portuguese passado de “can”, forma educada de “can” quando usado para pedir algo, poderia…
in Thai กริยาช่องที่ 2 ของกริยาช่วย can, สามารถ…
in German pret. von ‘können‘, Konjunktiv von ‘können‘…
in Catalan passat de “can”, s’utilitza per a expressar el que algú sabia, o el que algú o alguna cosa podia fer…
in Japanese “can” の過去形, (許可を求める疑問文で、”can” よりも丁寧)~してもよろしいですか, (推量を表す)~かもしれない…
in Chinese (Simplified) 能, (表示能够或允许)能,可以…
in Indonesian dapat, mungkin…
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