Difference Between Could and Would in English Grammar

Could vs Would in English Grammar

Could and Would are two words that are often confused in terms of their usage. Could is the past tense form of the verb ‘can’ whereas would is the past tense form of the verb ‘will’.

The word ‘could’ is used differently in different circumstances. It is generally used in sentences that are expressive of requests such as:

1. Could you please give me his address?

2. Could I get your telephone number?

In both the sentences given above you can see that the word ‘could’ is used expressive of request. It is interesting to note that both the sentences end with question mark.

The past tense form ‘could’ is used expressive of past tense as in the sentences

1. He could not reach the school in time.

2. She could not arrive in time.

In both the sentences given above the word ‘could’ is used expressive of past tense.

On the other hand the word ‘would’ is used expressive of past tense as in the sentences:

1. He would not go to the school in time.

2. She would not listen to him.

In both the sentences you can see that the word ‘would’ is used in the past tense of ‘will’.

The word ‘would’ is used in reported speech as in the sentence ‘He said that he would return back in the evening’. In this sentence the word ‘would’ is used in the reported speech where the verb ‘will’ was changed into ‘would’.

It is interesting to note that the verb ‘would’ is also used expressive of request like ‘could’ as in the sentence ‘Would you please help me in this regard?’ ‘Would’ is sometimes used to express habitual action as in the sentence ‘He would wait for her every evening in the park’.