Definition of could in US English:


modal verb

  • 1

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