Difference Between Would and Could (With Table)

Would and could are two modal auxiliary verbs that are in past tense form. It can often get difficult to use them correctly in a sentence since both revolve around the idea of possibility. Apart from their similar nature, they are even be used interchangeably sometimes. This only adds to the confusion. However, there are several differences between them that need to be understood for the sake of accuracy.

Would vs Could

The difference between would and could is that ‘would’ is the past tense form of ‘will’, and is used to express uncertain future possibilities, but has a connotation of intent attached to it. On the other hand, ‘could’ is the past tense of ‘can’ and is used to express future possibilities as well. However, it has a connotation of abilities attached to it.

The term ‘would’ is generally used to show willingness and intent for future situations. The future occurrences may or may be possible. There is a slight degree of uncertainty in them. Sometimes, it is even used to describe imaginary situations. The term is generally used when asking for permission or for making requests and offers.

Meanwhile, ‘could’ is used to show ability and to create possibility. It can be used to describe future situations that will surely occur. Sometimes, it is even used for present situations. Sentences that are used to make suggestions, ask for permission or requests generally use the term ‘could’ in them.

Comparison Table Between Would and Could

Parameters of ComparisonWouldCould
MeaningIt expresses possibilities that are about to occur and future possibilities that have been discussed in the past.It expresses possibilities that are in the present or future.
ConnotationIt has a connotation of willingness and intent.It has a connotation of ability and capability.
TenseIt is the past tense of ‘will’.It is the past tense of ‘can’.
SituationsThe situations that are described are uncertain or imaginary.The situations described are certain and real.
UsesIt is used for permissions, requests, and offers.It is used for suggestions, permissions, requests, and offers.

What is Would?

The term ‘would’ is a modal auxiliary verb like ‘will’, which is its present tense form. A modal verb is a subset of auxiliary verbs. It refers to words that discuss situations that are possible. ‘Would’ expresses possibilities that are uncertain, improbable, or imaginary. The term has a connotation of intent and willingness.

‘Would’ is generally used in sentences that ask for permissions, make a request, or lay down offers. The situations described in these sentences may be future occurrences. They may even be anterior futures, which means that a future was being described in the past. When used, it infers a sense of politeness, indirectness, uncertainty, hesitancy, and tentativeness.

Some examples of the term ‘would’ in a sentence include –

‘Akita said that she would go to the concert with me.’

‘I was curious to know what the results of the competitive exam would be.

‘Would you please shut the door on the way out?’

‘You said that you would let me meet my friends today.’

‘Would it be okay if I borrow your sweater?’

‘You would love me no matter what wouldn’t you?’

‘Who would you miss the most out of us when you graduate?

’What would you do if the world was about to end?’

What is Could?

The term ‘could’ is also a modal auxiliary verb that is used to discuss possibilities. It is the past tense form of the term ‘can’. The situations that are talked about are real and generally certain. However, there is a connotation of ability and capability that can be inferred from the term’s usage.

‘Could’ is generally used in sentences that describe a present situation or a situation that is going to occur in the future. The events are real and somewhat certain. Moreover, it is used to make suggestions, requests, and offers. People even use it to ask for permission. However, many consider this to be wrong and impolite.

Some examples of the term ‘could’ in a sentence include –

‘I could skate very well when I was a child.’

‘You said that we could meet once I finished my homework.’

‘Could you please shut the door on your way out?’

‘Could you wait under the bridge till I reach there?’

‘Could I have a bowl to put the lentils in and soak them?’

‘Could you lend your notebook to me so that I can get help with the math solutions?’

‘You could have called me once you reached!’

‘You could bring them back, but it’s too late now.’

Main Differences Between Would and Could

  1. Would expresses possibilities that are about to occur and future possibilities that have been discussed in the past whereas could expresses possibilities that are in the present or future.
  2. Would has a connotation of willingness and intent whereas could has a connotation of ability and capability.
  3. Would is the past tense of ‘will’ whereas could is the past tense of ‘can’.
  4. In the case of ‘would’, the situations that are described are uncertain or imaginary whereas in the case of ‘could’, the situations described are certain and real.
  5. Would is used for permissions, requests, and offers whereas could is used for suggestions, permissions, requests, and offers.

Conclusion

The terms would and could are modal auxiliary verbs that are used in the past tense form. Both describe possibilities, which can make it confusing to use them correctly. However, a major difference between the two is that would has a connotation of willingness and intent whereas could has the connotation of ability and capability.

Moreover, the occurrences that are described using would are uncertain or even imaginary in many cases. On the other hand, the occurrences that are described using could are real and somewhat certain. Another notable difference between them is that would is not used to make suggestions while could is often used to do so.

References

  1. https://search.proquest.com/openview/4f757adceaa1acc0e36e168f6a83f233/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
  2. https://www.survey.unitec.ac.nz/handle/10652/2388
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