Could – different usages.
(1) ‘ Could ‘ refers to the past ability/ perception.(general or particular)
- My grandfather could speak five languages.(general)
- When we went into the house, we could smell something burning.(particular)
- I could not grasp what the old man said.(particular)
(2) We use ‘ Could ‘ for general ability. But, if we are talking about what happened in a particular situation, we use ‘was/ were able to ‘. When we use ‘ Managed to….’ , it has a special connotation that a certain amount of difficulty was involved in doing the action.
- We were able to persuade him to come for the function.(refers to a particular situation)
- Running fast, I was able to catch the bus.(refers to a particular situation)
- There was heavy rush for the show but I managed to secure a seat.(refers to a particular situation involving difficulty)
(3) ‘ Could ‘ serves a purpose similar to that of ‘ Can ‘ , but more hesitant, less direct than ‘ Can, May, or Might ‘.
- Could this be the right answer?
- This could be the answer. What do you think?
(4) The negative ‘couldn’t ‘ ( could not) is possible in all situations.( i.e specific or general situations)
- I could not swim when I was a boy.
- We tried hard but we couldn’t persuade him to accept our proposal.
(5) We also use ‘ Could ‘ to talk about possible actions for ‘Now ‘ or for a ‘ Future time’. ‘Can’ is also possible in the place of ‘ Could ‘ ( especially to make a suggestion)
- What shall we do this evening ?
- We could go to the cinema.
- It’s a nice day. We could go for a walk.
- (OR) We can go for a walk.
- When you go to Mumbai next month, you could stay with my uncle. It will not be a problem for him. He has his own flat there.
(6) You must use ‘ Could ‘ ( Not can) when you don’t really mean what you say.
- I am so angry with him. I could kill him.( we do not say, ‘I can kill him’.This usage shows the intense state of anger Or it involves a little bit of exaggeration)
- I could smack his face! (here one does not smack another)
- I am so hungry. I could eat a horse.( actually one does not eat a horse)
- I am so tired. I could sleep for a week.( one does not ,actually, sleep for a week)
(7) We also use ‘ Could ‘ to say that something is possible now or in the future.
- The phone is ringing. It could be my sister Soja.
- They could arrive at any time. Please finish all the preparations soon.
(8) ‘ Could ‘ refers to possible freedom from other engagements.
- I could see you tomorrow at 10 a.m perhaps. ( which is less definite than ‘ I can see…)
(9) ‘ Could ‘ for grants, permissions etc.
- Could I borrow your pen , please?
- Yes of course you could.
- (OR) I am afraid you couldn’t. ( if the answer is in the ‘Negative’)