What’s The Difference Between Can and Could? Who Cares?
This is completely useless information, but whatever, I feel like writing about it. The number of people losing sleep over when to use “can” or “could" ranges somewhere between 0 and 0.
Even though I haven't conducted any research, including multi-varied studies, meta analyses, or polling, I know for a fact that know one cares.
And I will die on this hill.
My truth is that mixing “can” and “could” is of no consequence. It will not help or hurt your marketing, make you a better spouse or partner, nor will it help you recoup your Bitcoin investment losses.
Sure, I have a bug up my bum about the misuse of certain words, but I don’t consider mistaking “can” and “could” English language-butchery.
But what if you find yourself in The Cash Cab, and the double or nothing question is, “What’s the difference between can and could?”
Then you may want to read on.
Did you know that “can” and “could” are modal verbs?!?
And that a modal verb is an auxiliary verb that expresses necessity or possibility?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
The simplest difference between “can” and “could” is tense.
“Can" is the present tense, while “could” is its past tense counterpart. This distinction is essential (not really) when discussing abilities, possibilities, or permissions in various time frames.
- I can curse in Arabic, English, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Yiddish. (Present)
- I could curse in Arabic, English, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Yiddish last year. (Past)
These two modal verbs are used to express different degrees of possibility or likelihood. "Can" indicates a higher degree of certainty, while "could" suggests a more speculative or uncertain situation.
- I can empty the dishwasher now. (Higher certainty)
- I could empty the dishwasher now, except I don’t want to. (Less certainty)
When making requests or asking for permission, "could" is often considered more polite than "can." Using "could" softens the tone and makes the request less direct and more courteous.
- Can you take that strip of duct tape that I cut for you and seal your mouth? (Less polite)
- Could you take that strip of duct tape that I cut for you and seal your mouth, please? (More polite)
Again, none of this matters, but if you could, can you please share this blog post? Thanks!
About the Author, David Telisman
I am a Writer and Content Creator, and I work with businesses to inspire their customers to buy from them. I believe that my clients deserve to feel proud of how their content marketing looks and what it says, and I deliver by providing expert copywriting and marketing solutions.
Subscribe to our blog and YouTube channel, and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.