The difference between CAN & COULD

‘Could’ is a different form of a word ‘can’. ‘Can’ means ‘be able to do’ something in most cases.

Can and Can’t

➥usage – present skill

How well can you speak English?
I can’t understand you very well.

Could and Couldn’t

➥usage – skill in the past

I could hardly speak Spanish last year but I can speak it quite well.

I couldn’t hear you, can you repeat again?

Can and Could

usage – possibility

Can-‘sometimes’ (present)
Couldn’t – ‘sometimes’ (past)

The temperature can go above 40C in Istanbul in July.

Could, Can’t and Couldn’t

usage – conclusions

It could be true (It’s possible that it’s true)
It can’t be true (It’s not possible that it’s true -confident-)
It couldn’t be true (It’s not possible that it’s true -more tentative-)

Conclusions about the past

He could have done it (It’s possible that he did it)
He can’t have done it (It’s not possible that he has done it)
He couldn’t have done it (It’s not possible that he has done it / he did it)

Can and Could

usage – permission and request

You can come with me
You can’t smoke here.
Could you tell me the time, please?


Very polite ways of asking permission and request

Could I possibly interrupt you?
Do you think I could speak to you for a few minutes?


Could – unreal and conditional uses

I am so hungry, I could eat a kilo of rice.


I wish I could – ‘impossible’ wishes

I wish I could read your mind.

I wish we could be friends.


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