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Would and could…what’s the difference?

Would and could can be confusing for non native speakers. In this article, I will break it down to help make it more clear.

Let’s start with could:

Could is a modal verb and can be many things:

  • It is the past tense of can. (to be be able to do something, the ability to do something) Ex 1: I can speak French. I could speak French when I was younger (in the past but I don’t now). Ex 2: When my grandparents were my age, you could (it was possible) buy a Coke for 5 cents.
  • It is used in polite questions to ask permission. Ex 1: Could I go to Kevin’s house? (You can also say, “Can I go to Kevin’s?” but using “could” is more polite.
  • It is used to suggest something in the future. It can be used in a sentence or a question. Ex 1: Can we go to the park if it doesn’t rain tomorrow? Yes, we can go to the park tomorrow if it doesn’t rain.
  • It is used to say whether something is possible or not. Ex 1: Do you think I can pass the exam? Yes, I think you could.
  • It is used to refer to something you wish were possible but isn’t. Ex 1: I wish we could have a different president.
  • It is used to refer to something you believe is possible or believe to be true. Ex 1:Kaitlyn’s family is coming to dinner tonight. We could have 5 extra people but I’m not sure if they are all coming so we better prepare for 5.
  • It is used to describe something that was possible in the past but did not happen. Ex 1: If I had studied more, I could have passed the exam.
  • It is used to express a strong emotions such as anger or annoyance. Ex 1: Why were you driving so erratically? We could have died! Ex 2: Kaleb was really sick when he came home. What?! Why didn’t you call me? I could have come home early to help you.

Now let’s move on to would. It’s a little easier to understand because it has nothing to do with could or can.

  • It is used in polite questions (more polite than would and much more polite than can) In terms of politeness can is first, then would then could. Ex: Would you mind if I used your phone?
  • It’s used to express a willingness to do something. Ex: If you have questions, please ask me, I would be happy to help you!
  • To express your opinion Ex 1: I wouldn’t do that if I were you! Ex 2: I just bought a new car, guess how much it was! I would say it was $5,000.
  • It is used to express annoyance or frustration with someone that you believe a person does that bothers you. Ex 1: Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? He always says that! Ex 2: Person 1: Artie told me that you failed your exam.  Person 2: What?! Why would he tell you that? It’s none of his business!

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Phrasal verbs with get #1

“Get” should be a big part of your vocabulary if you want to speak like a native.

Here are 9 phrasal verbs with get and their meanings:

  • To get behind on: to not finish any type of work on schedule. This could be housework such as doing the dishes or laundry, a project at work or homework for school. For example, your project is due March 1 and you should be doing certain things each day to finish by that date but there were a few days where you did not do any work, so you “got behind” on your schedule.
  • To get out of (doing something): To not do something that you initially were supposed to do or offered to do. It’s usually something negative. For example, if I offered do all of the designing for a play I am in and then I decide it’s too much for me to do, I “get out of it” by telling the director that I can’t do it. So, I don’t do it.
  • To get along with: this one just means that you and another person have a friendship. You have things in common and you have fun together.
  • To get away with: This one is negative. It could mean something such as committing a crime and the police never find you or something small like telling a lie and nobody finds out.
  • To get around to (+gerund): This one is usually used in the past. I didn’t get around to doing the dishes this weekend so I’ll have to do them today. Kevin didn’t get around to doing his homework so now he has to do it Monday morning. It basically just means you either didn’t have time or you chose to do other activities instead of the work or errand.
  • To get over something/someone: You get over a boyfriend/girlfriend. You get over a bad experience. It means that you are sad or mad about something but with time, you have recovered and don’t feel that emotion anymore.
  • To get up: This has two meanings. To literally stand up from a sitting position in a chair or the couch (sofa). It also means to get out of bed. You wake up and get up (get out of bed)
  • To get it: This means to understand. For example, someone is teaching you how to do a math problem and they ask you, do you get it, do you understand? Yeah, I get it now.
  • To get back at someone: to get revenge. If someone hurt you or did something to upset you, some people want to get back at them, or get revenge. It means they want to hurt the person in the same way or worse. (But it’s better to just talk it out!)

So, there you have 9 phrasal verbs with get! 🙂

Do you want to do some flashcards and practice?

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