Definition of could in English:


Pronunciation /kəd//kʊd/

modal verb

  • 1

    past of can
    • ‘He couldn't handle both of them at once, and he had to get rid of her after she'd seen him.’
    • ‘I made as if to look suitably impressed, but hardly felt that I could compare notes.’
    • ‘It felt symbolic of the trip - taking a leap of faith and finding you could exceed your limits.’
    • ‘So I had to learn every aspect as much as I could, in order to get through it and make it.’
    • ‘That meant we could catch the light and sound show in the evening.’
    • ‘We could hear the clear belling from inside the patch of forest in the valley.’
    • ‘My boyfriend and I wanted to sign up for the class so that we could take it together for fun.’
    • ‘All that anyone could do at that point was stay back and watch the mesmerizing scene.’
    • ‘The budgie knew his name, address and telephone number and could sing Three Blind Mice.’
    • ‘We could see nothing except for the next few curves as the path climbed relentlessly into the clouds.’
    • ‘Several families had to untie bikes from the backs of their cars before they could gain access to the boot.’
    • ‘The first thing to go for was a decent wash in fresh water as we could only have salt water to wash in on board.’
    • ‘Seven bridges were built so that the people of the city could get from one part to another.’
    • ‘Yet if its occurrence could be measured on this basis, it would be found to be non-existent.’
    • ‘How did you go about putting that into words so you could file a sensible report to camera?’
    • ‘I once read that in battle the most dangerous thing you could do was run away.’
    • ‘After the show, back at the stable lines, Barbara explained that I could ride a bit.’
    • ‘It tried as hard as it could to rally in the third, but the game had long been out of reach.’
    • ‘From Point Baptiste, we could see the low outline of the French island of Marie Galante.’
    • ‘I was stunned by the sheer volume of sound that twenty five singers could make.’
    1. 1.1 Used to indicate possibility.
      ‘they could be right’
      ‘I would go if I could afford it’
      • ‘He could have bowed out gracefully at any time and it looked like he might, but now this.’
      • ‘In theory, you could spend all day every day in the environs of your bungalow.’
      • ‘He only saw the formula in its microscopic form and didn't realize that it could be macroscopic.’
      • ‘In fact, he pours cold water on any suggestion he could be a future coach of the club.’
      • ‘We have good speed and we thought we could pressure them with just a straight pass rush.’
      • ‘One could say that it was not as good as in a strictly Italian resto, but still it was very good.’
      • ‘If my guess is correct then your problem could be related to ageing or some other cause.’
      • ‘It is not beyond the realm of possibility that a deal could have been struck.’
      • ‘There will be a possibility that police could give advice to members of the public in the room.’
      • ‘It could force the service to be closed permanently.’
      • ‘There is also the possibility that it could be used to re-examine unsolved crimes.’
      • ‘When we arrived, the sand was so crisp and clean it could have just come back from the Atlantic laundry.’
      • ‘Don't put it in the hollow of the cheek in an attempt to shade your face, or it could end up looking like a dirty smudge.’
      • ‘He then asked her record company if he could duet with her and was rejected.’
      • ‘We are supposed to imagine that this telephone conversation could be taking place right now.’
      • ‘One possibility is that he could be sent abroad, but in practice this rarely happens.’
      • ‘Early suggestions were that this could be for two days a week, but it has so far been restricted to twice a year.’
      • ‘In theory at least, this implies that adding telomerase to cells could rejuvenate them.’
      • ‘He bristles at the notion that his views could be seen as disloyal to his country.’
      • ‘They could well afford it, given the millions they rake in from the motoring public.’
    2. 1.2 Used in making suggestions or polite requests.
      ‘you could always ring him up’
      ‘could I use the phone?’
      • ‘Is there a small heater you could recommend for when the icy weather returns?’
      • ‘We had a letter to say they had not received the form and could I make a request for a new one.’
      • ‘Where did you find the information that you used to write it, and could you suggest a few books for me?’
      • ‘I would be grateful if any readers could tell me more.’
    3. 1.3 Used to indicate annoyance because of something that has not been done.
      ‘they could have told me!’
    4. 1.4 Used to indicate a strong inclination to do something.
      ‘he irritates me so much that I could scream’


For a discussion on the use of could of instead of could have, see have