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    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 24
    #1

    correct use of modal could

    Hi,
    I get confuse about the correct use of the modal "could"
    for instance

    She could answer the question

    1.This sentence means that she will be able to answer the question? or
    2. that means that she was able to answer the question?

    The confusion comes because I know "could" is the past of "can" but in sentences mean future for example "she could be the next top model" or something that have the skill to perform the activity like in the sentence above.
    Last edited by shade878; 14-Mar-2009 at 18:16.


    • Join Date: Feb 2009
    • Posts: 62
    #2

    Re: correct use of modal could

    Quote Originally Posted by shade878 View Post
    Hi,
    I get confused about the correct use of the modal "could"
    for instance

    She could answer the question

    1.This sentence means that she will be able to answer the question? or
    2. that means that she was able to answer the question?

    The confusion comes because I know "could" is the past of "can" but in sentences mean future for example "she could be the next top model" or something that have the skill to perform the activity like in the sentence above.
    The confusion probably comes form the fact that the sentence is potentially ambiguous. " Can" is used to talk about ability, in which case the past tense form is "could". " Could" refers to a low future probability too,which is almost the same as "might". But in the context above, we usually say" she was able to/ managed to answer the question"." Could " is used when we talk about a geneal situation in the past, like "she could speak two languages when she was three".

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    #3

    Re: correct use of modal could

    Dear shade:

    paulmoss gave you very good information. I would just like to add this point about 'could'.

    'She could answer the question' can also be used to imply that she is perfectly capable of answering the question, if she chooses to.

    A: Will you help me move my things to the new apartment?
    B: [Gives some vague and non-committal response]
    A: You could do it if you wanted to .

    Quote Originally Posted by shade878 View Post
    Hi,
    I get confuse about the correct use of the modal "could"
    for instance

    She could answer the question

    1.This sentence means that she will be able to answer the question? or
    2. that means that she was able to answer the question?

    The confusion comes because I know "could" is the past of "can" but in sentences mean future for example "she could be the next top model" or something that have the skill to perform the activity like in the sentence above.
    Best wishes,

    Petra

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