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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)
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