How To Use Could, Should And Would In English Grammar | Common English Mistakes

Lesson summary

Tired of being confused by should could and would? In this lesson you will learn the difference between should could and would.

Video transcript

John could go to the park on Monday.  John should go to the park on Monday or John would go to the park on Monday.  Could should would.  What’s the difference? Let’s find out. 

 

What’s up guys? My name is Shane and today we are talking about could, should and would. These words causes many problems for English learners but they’re actually quite easy once you understand what they mean.

 

Could should and would all talk about possible situations but they all tell us something different. 

 

Could means something is possible.

 

Should means you are giving advice.

 

And would means there is a possible situation if certain conditions are right.

 

Don’t worry if all of this sounds confusing because by the end of the lesson, you will understand how to use could, should and would and what these words mean.  And make sure you watch until the end of the video because there will be a quiz to test your understanding.

 

Also please note that today we are only talking about could, should and would. We are not talking about could have, should have and would have.  These words will be covered in part 2 of this could, should would series. Okay let’s get started. 

 

Could

Let’s look at one of our sentences from the start of the video. John could go the park on Monday.  John could go the park on Monday. 

 

What am I talking about? Is it past, present or future? The future. 

 

Am I saying he will go 100%? No. am I saying he might go, it’s possible?  Yes I am. 

 

I am saying that it’s possible for him to go to the park on Monday.  He might go.  He might not go. Maybe he is doing something else but it is possible for him to go to the park on Monday. 

 

Let’s have a look at some other examples. I could eat another plate of food.  I could eat another plate of food.  

 

What am I talking about? Past, present or future? I am talking about the future. 

 

Am I saying it’s possible? Yes.

 

Am I saying I will do it 100%?  No.  With this sentence, I am saying that I might eat another plate of food. It’s possible.  I might do it. But I don’t know. I can get more food if I want but I don’t know if I am going to get the food or not.

 

When we use could, we can add information at the end of the sentence to make it more clear. 

 

So let’s have a look at our first example: John could go to the park on Monday because it’s his day off. 

 

What am I talking about? Past, present or future? Future. 

 

Am I saying it’s possible for him to go to the park? Yes. 

 

Why? Why is it possible? Because it’s his day off.

 

And with the second sentence.  I could eat another plate of food but I’m too full.  This means it’s possible for me to eat another plate of food, I can do it. I can go and get some more food and eat it but I won’t. 

 

Why? Because I am too full.

 

So this is the meaning of could. Could means something is possible.  It might happen, it might not happen but it is possible. 

 

Should

Okay let’s look at our sentence from the intro again.  John should go to the park on Monday. 

 

What am I talking about? Past, present or future?  Future.

 

So why am I saying should here? Am I giving some advice? Yes I am. 

 

I am saying should because I think it’s the best option for John.  It’s one of his best choices. 

 

So I said he should go to the park. I think it will be good for him.

 

So we use should when we want to tell someone what we think is the best option, the best possibility for them. 

 

Okay, let’s look at another example.  He should change his job.  Is this talking about the past, present or future? The Future. 

 

Can he change his job?  Is it possible?  Yes it is. 

 

So am I giving him advice?  Yes I am.  I am saying I think it’s a good option for him to change jobs. 

 

And when you use should, you can also add information to the end of the sentence like we did with could.

 

So I could say John should go to the park because he doesn’t exercise much. I am saying I think it’s a good idea for John to go to the park.  Why? Because he doesn’t exercise much.  That is my reason for giving him the advice.

 

What about the second sentence? I could say he should change his job but he might not be able to find another job.

 

So do I think the best option for him is to change jobs? Yes.

 

But I also think that there might be a problem. I think that the best action for him is to change jobs but he might have a problem in the future if he tries to change jobs.

 

So this is the meaning of should. We use it to give advice. We use it to tell someone what we think that the best thing to do is. Or what we think the proper thing to do is in the future. 

 

Would

John would go to the park on Monday. What am I talking about?  Past, present or future? Future.

 

Is it possible? Maybe, we don’t know.

 

Would here means he is willing to do it he probably wants to do it but only if there are the right conditions. If everything if right.

 

If everything is right, he will go. But, if everything is not right, he won’t go.

 

Let’s look at another example. He would get a loan from the bank. What am I talking about? Past, present or future? Future.

 

Is it possible?  Maybe, we don’t know. If there are the right conditions yes he will get a loan. But, if there are not the right conditions, if something is not right, he won’t get a loan.

 

He is willing to do it, he wants to do it but everything has to be right.

 

And just like with could and should, when we are using the word would, we can add information at the end of the sentence to make it more clear.

 

So with our first example, we could say:  John would go the park if he had a car. What am I talking about? Past, present or future? Future.

 

Will he go? No. 

 

Why? Because he doesn’t have a car. So in this sentence, would means he is willing to go, he wants to go but he can’t go because the conditions aren’t right.

 

You could say it’s possible if he goes and buys a car but it’s very unlikely. It’s 99% chance that he won’t go and buy a car and therefore, he won’t go to the park.

 

And the second example:  he would get a loan if he had a job. Does he want to get a loan? Yes he does.

 

Can he get a loan? No he can’t.

 

Why?  Because the conditions aren’t right. He doesn’t have a job and therefore the bank won’t give him any money.

 

So just remember, would means the person wants to do it, they are willing to do it, but the conditions have to be right.

 

If the conditions are right, the person will do it.

 

If the conditions are not right, then the person won’t do it.

 

This is the meaning of would. 

 

Quiz

Now, we have learned about could, should and would so let’s have a little quiz to test your understanding.  I will say a sentence with a missing word and I want you to fill in the missing word with could, should or would. 

 

Number 1. You ____ go see a doctor.  I think it’s the best option.  You ____ go see a doctor.  I think it’s the best option.  The correct is answer is you should go see a doctor because remember, when you give advice, when we think it’s the best option, we say should. 

 

Number 2.  Ben ____ be a basketball player because he’s very tall. It’s possible.  Ben ____ be a basketball player because he’s very tall. It’s possible.  And the correct answer is ben could be a basketball player because he’s very tall. Remember, we use could when we want to say something is possible.  

 

Number three.  Ben ____ be a good basketball player but he’s too old now.  It’s possible, but the conditions aren’t right.  Ben ____ be a good basketball player but he’s too old now.  It’s possible, but the conditions aren’t right.  So the correct answer is ben would be a good basketball player but he’s too old now. I am saying something is possible but it can’t happen but the conditions aren’t right.  His age isn’t right. He is too old to be a basketball player now. 

 

Number four.  There’s some more food on the table.  I _____ eat it.  It’s possible.  There’s some more food on the table.  I _____ eat it.  It’s possible.  The correct answer is: .  There’s some more food on the table.  I could eat it.  Remember, we use could to talk about things that are possible. 

 

And last question, Jeff _____ come over but he has to go see his parents.  It’s possible but the conditions aren’t right.  Jeff _____ come over but he has to go see his parents.  It’s possible but the conditions aren’t right.  And the correct answer is Jeff would come over but he has to go see his parents. He wants to do it. He is willing to do it but the conditions aren’t right so he can’t do it.

 

And that is the end of the lesson today. If you want some extra practice, you can write some sentences down below with could, should and would and I will check them for you.

 

And make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss part 2 of this could, should would series.  If you learned something from the video, please hit like and please share this with your friends so they can understand the correct meaning of could should and would.

 

And for more English make sure your following me on Instagram for daily quizzes and weekly lessons and posts and I will see you in the next video.  Meaning of could.  Could means … I am saying john.  I am saying I think john ..

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