could Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary Cambridge dictionaries logo
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Meaning of “could” in the English Dictionary

"could" in British English

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couldverb

uk   strong /kʊd/ weak /kəd/  us   /kʊd/  /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 finished our homework. We asked if the computer could access the internet.

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couldmodal verb

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

B1 used as a more polite form 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 polite form 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 express possibility, especially slight or uncertain possibility: A lot of crime could be prevented. She could arrive anytime now. This new drug could be an important step in the fight against cancer. Be careful with that stick - you could have hit your sister!

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  • could modal verb (SUGGESTION)

B1 used for making a suggestion: We could go out for a drink after work tomorrow, if you want. You could always call 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 watch television when we finished our homework. 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 polite form of can when asking for permission: Could I speak to Mr. Harley, please?
  • could modal verb (REQUEST)

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

used to express possibility, esp. slight or uncertain possibility: 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 de “can”, se usa para expresar lo que alguien sabía o podía hacer, forma más cortés que “can” de pedir permiso…
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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