Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

English definition of “could”

could

modal verb
 
strong /kʊd/
 
weak /kəd/
A2 used as the past form of ‘can’ to talk about what someone or something was able or allowed to do: I couldn’t see him. You said I could go!
A2 used as a more polite form of ‘can’ when asking for permission: Excuse me, could I say something here? Could I speak to Mr Davis, please?
B1 used to talk about what is possible or might happen: She could arrive any time now.
B1 used as a more polite form of ‘can’ when asking someone to give you something or do something: Could you lend me £5? Could you turn the music down a little, please?
B1 used for making a suggestion: We could go for a drink after work tomorrow, if you like.
could have used to talk about things that possibly happened in the past or might possibly have happened by some time in the future: She could have been killed.
couldn’t have used to express certainty that something in the past was impossible or didn’t happen: He couldn’t have damaged your bike – he was with me all evening.
(Definition of could from the Cambridge Essential Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
Browse related topics

You are looking at an entry to do with Possible and probable, but you might be interested in these topics from the Chance and possibility topic area:

Add Cambridge dictionaries to your browser to your website

More Essential British English definitions for “could”

Definitions of “could” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day

dawn on sb

If a fact dawns on you, you understand it after a period of not understanding it.

Word of the Day

The language of work

by Kate Woodford,
October 15, 2014
Most of us talk about our jobs. We tell our family and friends interesting or funny things that have happened in the workplace (=room where we do our job), we describe – and sometimes complain about – our bosses and colleagues and when we meet someone for the first time, we tell

Read More 

life tracking noun

October 20, 2014
the use of one or more devices or apps to monitor health, exercise, how time is spent, etc.

Read More