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Hi, I’m Anne Marie with Speak Confident English and welcome to your Confident English Wednesday lesson. This is where you want to be every week if your goal is to advance your English language skills and communicate with confidence. This week, we’re going to look at grammar in real life. We’re going to get very specific on one topic. We’ll look at some examples of how it gets used in real everyday speaking situations and of course, as always, you have the opportunity to practice and perfect so that you can use your English with confidence at work and in your everyday life.
This week, we’re looking at the word “could.” “Could” is one of those modal words that you might hear a lot about. Modals are words like should, would, could, might, but I want to focus just on one, just on the word “could” so that you can really understand how we use it in everyday speaking situations and use it correctly.
In today’s video, you’ll learn five situations in which you can use the word “could” just like a native speaker in your everyday life and number one is making polite requests. Imagine that you’re at work and you need help with something or you want to ask someone for something. The way to make it the most polite is to use the word “could.” For example, could you send me the contract by the end of the day? Could you send me the contract by the end of the day? In this example, I could use the word “can.” Can you send me the contract by the end of the day? But, just that small change from “can” to “could” makes it more polite.
Another example that I hear a lot in my classes and in my emails is, “Could you help me? I just don’t understand this grammar topic.” Could you help me? I just don’t understand this. Or, maybe you get a phone call from a friend who says, “Could I borrow your car this weekend?” Could I borrow your car this weekend? And, finally, a very polite but common way of interrupting someone at work is, “I’m sorry. Could I bother you for a moment?” Or, “I’m sorry. Could I interrupt you for a moment?”
Now the second way that we use “could” in our everyday lives is responding to requests. You’ve already used it to make a polite request. Let’s imagine that your friend calls you and asks, “Could you help me move this weekend? I’m moving to a new apartment and I need some help.” Could you help me move this weekend? Now, it’s your job to respond. Again, you have a choice. You could say “can.” “Yes, I can,” or, “I would love to help you move this weekend.” Or, you could say, “Yeah, I could help you. I only have time on Saturday afternoon though.” Yeah, I could help you. In responding to a request, when we use “could,” it shows a little bit of hesitation or lack of desire for doing it. Maybe you really don’t have time or you just don’t want to help. Using “could” actually shows that you don’t really want to do it. Instead “can” can show a little bit more enthusiasm. For example, “Yes, of course. I can help you this weekend. It’s no problem.” There’s just a little change between making the request and answering the request.
Number three, making suggestions. For example, maybe someone says to you, “Oh, I’m so bored. I’ve nothing to do.” But, you have a lot of good ideas and you could suggest those ideas by saying, “You could read a book.” Or, “You could go to a movie. You could take a walk or you could even take the dog on a walk.” All of those are great suggestions and we’re using “could” to help us make those.
Number four, past abilities. When I was younger, I could run a lot faster without getting out of breath. When I was younger, I could run a lot faster without getting out of breath. Or, 10 years ago, she could speak Spanish really well but she hasn’t used it in years. 10 years ago, she could speak Spanish so much better but she hasn’t used it in years. In both of those examples, I’m talking about an ability that I or someone else had in the past but we no longer have that ability.
Finally, number five, a real life situation when we use the word “could” is for possibilities, and this is similar to using “might” but we’ll save that for another day. Let’s look at a couple of examples of using “could” for a possibility. Don’t forget to take an umbrella today. It could rain. Or, we could even use it for past possibilities. For example, you could have gone to the store earlier to avoid all the traffic. You could have gone to the store earlier to avoid all the rush hour traffic.
And, with that, you have five real life examples of how we use “could” in our everyday lives in English and, now, it’s your turn to give it a try. As always, you can share with me your own examples in the comment section just below this video to get feedback and to share with the Confident English community. Try practicing some polite requests or share with me some past abilities that you had. As always, I do read all the comments below and provide feedback so don’t be afraid to take this opportunity to test your understanding and then begin using these examples in your everyday life so that you can communicate with confidence.