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  1. #1
    pizzadude is offline Newbie
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    Default Verb tense confusion - how can "could" be used to describe future events?

    Hi.

    I am having confusions with verb tense. If "could" is the past tense of "can", then how can "could" be used in a sentence to describe a future event like the following:

    I could fail math class next week.

    The word "should" (which is the past tense of shall) can also be used to describe future events like the following:

    If you should ever find yourself in such a situation...

    The second question I have is if I am in a room with a friend and I ask that friend to pass a pencil to me by saying, "Billy, could you pass that pencil to me". Is that sentence correct? I use "could" instead of "can" to describe an event in the present or future instead of in the past. I hear people say it like that all the times, and I don't know if it's correct or not.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Verb tense confusion - how can "could" be used to describe future events?

    can (could) and shall (should) are modal verbs and go together with another verb to indicate the tense
    "I could fail math class next week."
    I could have failed the math exam last week without all the tutoring you gave me."

    "should' : you need to review in your dictionary all the uses of this word quite apart from that as past tense of 'shall'

    'could' : Again, you will find these uses described in your dictionary.

  3. #3
    Soup's Avatar
    Soup is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Verb tense confusion - how can "could" be used to describe future events?

    Hi pizzadude

    This is in addition to David's help.

    Because could expresses a possibility, it can be used to express present, past, and future:

    Present: Could you pass me a pencil?
    => a polite request
    Note that, speakers will also use can.

    Past: I couldn't call you yesterday.
    => meaning, I wasn't able to.

    Future: I could call you tomorrow.
    => meaning, there is a possibility if (a) you so wish it or (b) I so wish it.


    "Billy, could you pass that pencil to me?"
    "Billy, can you pass that pencil to me?"


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