Could vs. Would

Main Difference

Although both ‘Could’ and ‘Would’ are Auxiliary Verbs in English Grammar and serve to modify the mood of a verb, they often confuse the learners to where and how to use them. To cope with such issue and to get an explicit idea about these Model Verbs, the underlying illustration would be of good help. First of all, we would take ‘Could’ into a discussion. Could is basically a ‘second form of can’ and is used to indicate a capability in the past e.g. ‘I could run faster in my childhood’ or ‘I could catch the thief when I saw him at first’. Hence, it replaces ‘Can’ for the past sentence; however, not only as past, it can be used in place of ‘can’ in the Present Tense to give the phrase a conditional tone such as ‘She could not allow her son to go out in the dark’. Thirdly, ‘Could’ also works to make a request more polite. For example, ‘could you let me know what your intentions are’? On the other hand, ‘Would’ is also a Model Verb and has a differential job. Firstly, it is used to indicate future in the past e.g. ‘She would try to work hard following the example of her brother’. Secondly, ‘Would’ works as the conditional mood of ‘will’ in the conditional sentences such as ‘I would get you a car if you followed my advice’. In a subjunctive case would is utilized to indicate an unreal condition e.g. ‘I would work more efficiently if I were you’. Thirdly, ‘Would’ is used for polite requests but with a questioning tone unlike ‘could’ e.g. ‘Would you like to let me know what had happened’? Moreover, ‘would’ is also used for Future Tense when there is a probability but not complete certainty e.g. ‘He would help you’ [there is a possibility that the third person will help.

Could vs. Would — Is There a Difference?
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Difference Between Could and Would

Could vs. Would

Would is considered as the past form of ‘Will’ to indicate future in the past; ‘Could’ is the past form of ‘Can’ to indicate capability in the past.

Could vs. Would

Could is used to suggest; Would is used in conditional sentences.

Could vs. Would

'Could' can be used for polite requests; Would can be employed to raise a polite question.

Could vs. Would

Could is used for possibility, while Would is used for less probability.

Could vs. Would

Would can be adopted to indicate unreal thing; Could is not used for unreal things.

Couldverb

conditional of can

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Wouldverb

(heading) As a past-tense form of will.

Couldverb

Used as a past subjunctive (contrary to fact).

I think he could do it if he really wanted to.I wish I could fly!

Wouldverb

(obsolete) Wished, desired (something).

Couldverb

Used to politely ask for permission to do something.

Could I borrow your coat?

Wouldverb

(archaic) Wanted to ( + bare infinitive).

Couldverb

Used to politely ask for someone else to do something.

Could you proofread this email?
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Wouldverb

Used to; was or were habitually accustomed to ( + bare infinitive); indicating an action in the past that happened repeatedly or commonly.

Couldverb

Used to show the possibility that something might happen.

We could rearrange the time if you like.

Wouldverb

Used with bare infinitive to form the "anterior future", indicating a futurity relative to a past time.

Couldverb

Used to suggest something.

You could try adding more salt to the soup.

Wouldverb

(archaic) Used with ellipsis of the infinitive verb, or postponement to a relative clause, in various senses.

Couldnoun

Something that could happen, or could be the case, under different circumstances; a potentiality.

Wouldverb

Was determined to; loosely, could naturally have been expected to (given the tendencies of someone's character etc.).

Wouldverb

(heading) As a modal verb, the subjunctive of will.

Wouldverb

Used to give a conditional or potential "softening" to the present; might, might wish.

Wouldverb

Used as the auxiliary of the simple conditional modality (with a bare infinitive); indicating an action or state that is conditional on another.

Wouldverb

Might wish ( + verb in past subjunctive); often used in the first person (with or without that) in the sense of "if only".

Wouldverb

Used to impart a sense of hesitancy or uncertainty to the present; might be inclined to. Now sometimes colloquially with ironic effect.

Wouldverb

Used interrogatively to express a polite request; are (you) willing to …?

Would you pass the salt, please?

Wouldverb

Might desire; wish (something).

Wouldnoun

Something that would happen, or would be the case, under different circumstances; a potentiality.

Comparison Chart

CouldWould
Usage
‘Could’ is the past form of ‘Can’ to indicate capability in the pastConsidered as the past form of ‘Will’ to indicate the future in the past
Language
SuggestionConditional sentences
Extra Uses
Polite requestsPolite questions
Adoption
Can be adapted to indicate an unreal thingCannot be used for unreal things

Definition of Would

Would is a Model Auxiliary Verb works to modify the mood of the main verb in the sentence. It is usually used in conditional sentences as it depends on some conditions. Would also be used for sentences in which something is being said about the future but in the context of the past. This model verb can also be employed to raise polite questions as well.

Definition of Could

Could is a Model Auxiliary Verb and normally used in place of ‘Can’ for Past Tenses to highlight past capability. Apart from showing capability in the past, ‘Could’ is also used frequently to make polite requests. It is used for possibility e.g. ‘they could have done this job more effectively’.