Could and Could have

Hello English learners. Welcome to a new lesson. We will talk about the use and the difference between could and could have.

Knowing grammar rules helps you express your thoughts in a more relaxed way because you understand how the language works. Some language teachers believe that grammar is the most important element in learning a language although it can be complex and ambiguous at times.

The English teachers at My Lingua Academy are happy to help you improve your English. You can attend our online individual and group private lessons or learn English for free with our blog posts where you will find loads of grammar and vocabulary lessons, as well as exercises and quizzes.


Let’s start with could.

Could is a past form of can. We use it to express ability in the past.

  • I can swim – I could swim when I was 5.
  • Simon can’t find a parking space. – He couldn’t find a parking space yesterday.

Could and could have

We can use could to express possibility as well.

  • If we earn enough money, we could buy that house.
  • It could be hours before the operation is over.
  • If there is not much traffic, they could be home by 6.

Could can be used for unrealistic or imaginary situations.

  • I wish I could fly a plane.
  • Wouldn’t it be great if we could
  • If only I could have a beach house on a tropical island.

We can use could to say that something might be possible to be or happen in the present or in the future.

  • You could understand English better if you practice listening.
  • Could the block out last long?
  • You could get arrested for shoplifting.
  • If you buy a lottery ticket you could get million pounds.
  • It’s very warm today but it could change quickly.

Could and could have

And lastly, we can use could to make requests and ask for permission.

  • Could you send a taxi to this address?
  • Could I book a double room in the hotel, please?
  • Do you think I could use your phone?
  • Could I ask you something personal?

Could have

If we want to say that something was possible to be or happen in the past, we use could have + past participle.

  • I wish I could have met up with my friend yesterday, but I had to work late.
  • When I was younger, I could have stayed awake all night.
  • Sean could have avoided the accident if he’d turned left.
  • Marin could have phoned us but he hadn’t

We can use could have + past participle to talk about possibility in the past.

Could and could have

  • They could have hired you if you had applied for the job.
  • Sara could have died if the doctors hadn’t been so efficient.
  • They couldn’t have gone on a trip last week anyway because Peter was ill.

Find more about the difference between can, could and be able to on this link

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Could and could have
Could and could have

My Lingua Academy

My Lingua Academy is an online school of English language. We give one-on-one lessons to students of English of all ages and all levels of knowledge all around the world. With us you can prepare for written assignments and exams, attend a general or business English course, or have conversation classes with qualified English teachers who have years of experience.


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