could / should / would

Use should and shouldn’t to ask for and give advice and suggestions:

“I’ve had a really bad headache for the past week.”

“That’s not good – you should go to the doctor.”

“I want to make more friends, but I don’t know how.”

“First of all, you shouldn’t spend so much time on the computer. You should go out and join a club or start playing a sport instead!”

“I had a fight with my best friend. What should I do?”

“Hmm. I think you should call her and tell her you’re sorry.”

Use could and couldn’t for ability in the past (they are the past forms of can and can’t):

  • When I was younger, I could run a mile in 7 minutes. Now it takes me 20 minutes!
  • Yesterday, I couldn’t find my wallet anywhere – but this morning I found it.
  • Last year, he couldn’t speak English very well, but now he can.

    Use could to talk about future possibilities:

    “Do you have any ideas for our publicity campaign?”

    “Yes, I’ve got a few ideas. I could put advertisements on Facebook and Google. We could also give out pamphlets in our neighborhood. Maybe John could even contact local TV stations.”

    Use could to make polite requests:

  • Could you please open the window? It’s hot in here.
  • Could you turn the music down? Thanks.
  • Could you make 10 copies of this report, please?

    Use would to talk about unreal or unlikely situations:

  • If I were the president of my company, I would make a lot of changes.
  • If people were more generous, there wouldn’t be so much poverty in the world.
  • She would travel around the world if she had more vacation time.

    In this case, would is often shortened to ‘d

  • If I were the president of my company, I’d make a lot of changes.

    Use Would you like…? to make polite offers:

    “Would you like anything to drink?”

    “A soda would be great. Thanks!” “Would you like to join us for dinner?”

    “I’d love to, but I actually have other plans tonight.”

    “Would you like to see some pictures from my vacation?” “Sure!”

    Don’t use “to” after should, could, or would:

    You shouldn’t to smoke.

    You shouldn’t smoke.

    We could to order pizza tonight.

    We could order pizza tonight.

    I would to buy a new car if I had the money.

    I would buy a new car if I had the money.