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Can, Could, Would, and Should


English For Israel Can, Could, Would, and Should

Can, could, would, and should, are auxiliary verbs in the English language that are used to modify the meaning of the main verb in a sentence. 


These four words are repeatedly misused and are often used in an impolite and insulting manner.   


The misuse of these words often stems from confusion between their subtle meanings and how they are used in different contexts.


Paying attention to the specific meanings and contexts where these modal verbs are used will help you to avoid common mistakes.


Let's now examine the words can, could, would, and should.


Can is used to indicate the ability or possibility of doing something.


Misuse The most common misuse of can. is when it's used to seek permission. For example, saying, Can I go to the restroom? instead of may I go to the restroom?" Although the word can is often used informally for permission, it is technically incorrect in formal situations.


Could is the past tense of can, and is used to indicate past ability, possibility, or as a more polite way of making a request.


Misuse I could go to the store yesterday. In this sentence, the word could is used incorrectly in the past tense. The correct past tense of can is could, but it should be followed by the base form of the verb, not the infinitive form to. The correct sentence is, I could have gone to the store yesterday. Why? In this example, could indicates past ability or possibility, and go is the base form of the verb used  to show the action that was possible in the past.


Would is primarily used to express wishes, preferences, and polite requests. It is also used in conditional sentences for the result or consequence.


Misuse One common misuse is when would is used as a replacement for will, is in the future tense. For example, saying, I would call you tomorrow, instead of I will call you tomorrow. The correct usage depends on the context.. Will defines a definite future action while would defines a hypothetical, uncertain, or polite request.


Should is used to express an obligation, duty, or expectation. It also suggests advice or a recommendation.


Misuse One common misuse is when should is used is in the past tense to express regret. For instance, saying, I should have gone to the party to mean I wish I had gone to the party. In this example, the word should doesn't convey regret, rather it suggests what the person believes they ought to have done.


When speaking good English, it's best to not use the words can, could, would, and should, at all.


They are conditional words that merely express cause and effect, but not results. 

While can (יכול) is often used in Hebrew, using it in English may be interpreted as an insult as it questions someone's ability to do something. 

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