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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English coude, couthe, cuthe, from Old English cūþe, past indicative and past subjunctive form of cunnan (to be able) (compare related cūþ > English couth). The addition of the silent 'l' was likely a misappropriation attempting to normalize with modal verbs will/would and shall/should. However, while the letter l was historically pronounced in the latter two, could never had an l sound in it.


  • (stressed) IPA(key): /kʊd/
  • (unstressed) IPA(key): /kəd/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʊd



  1. simple past tense of can
    Before I was blind, I could see very well.
  2. conditional of can
    1. Used as a past subjunctive (contrary to fact).
      I think he could do it if he really wanted to.
      I wish I could fly!
    2. Used to politely ask for permission to do something.
      Could I borrow your coat?
    3. Used to politely ask for someone else to do something.
      Could you proofread this email?
    4. Used to show the possibility that something might happen.
      • 2013 June 29, “Travels and travails”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8842, page 55:
        Even without hovering drones, a lurking assassin, a thumping score and a denouement, the real-life story of Edward Snowden, a rogue spy on the run, could be straight out of the cinema. But, as with Hollywood, the subplots and exotic locations may distract from the real message: America’s discomfort and its foes’ glee.
      We could rearrange the time if you like.
    5. Used to suggest something.
      You could try adding more salt to the soup.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


could (plural coulds)

  1. Something that could happen, or could be the case, under different circumstances; a potentiality.
    • 1996, Fred Shoemaker, Extraordinary Golf: The Art of the Possible, page 88:
      When the golf ball is there, the whole self-interference package — the hopes, worries, and fears; the thoughts on how-to and how-not-to; the woulds, the coulds, and the shoulds — is there too.
    • 2010, Shushona Novos, The Personal Universal: A Guidebook for Spiritual Evolution, page 395:
      Shushona you must learn to rightfully prioritize all the woulds, shoulds and coulds of your life.

See also[edit]