English grammar help: how to use ‘should’, ‘would’ and ‘could’

‘Should’, ‘would’ and ‘could’ are auxiliary verbs that can sometimes get confusing. They are the past tense of ‘shall’, ‘will’ and ‘can’ but are also used in other situations.

‘Should’ can be used:

  1. To express something that is probable
    “John should be here by 2:00 PM.”
    “He should be bringing Jennifer with him.

  2. To ask questions
    “Should we turn left at this street?”
    “Shouldn’t you be getting ready for work?”

  3. To show obligation, give recommendation or even an opinion
    “You should stop eating fast food.”
    “You should go for walks more often.”
    “We should go to the park tomorrow.”
    “He should go to the pharmacy first thing in the morning.”

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‘Would’ can be used:

  1. **To ask ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’ or ‘how’ (not always, but often)
    “How would you do that?”
    “What would you do if…”
    “When would we have time to do that?”
    “Who would want to wait in that line?”

  2. To make a polite requestExamples:
    “Would you like any tea?”
    “Would you like anything else?”

  3. In hypothetical situations
    “If I had a lot of money I would like to own a farm one day.”
    “I would love to buy a boat one day.”

  4. **To ask questions
    “Would you like fries or salad?”
    “Would you like to join us tonight?”

‘Could’ can be used:

  1. To suggest a possibility
    “Whose journal is this? It could be Nelly’s journal.”
    “Could ‘A’ be the answer? It’s definitely not ‘B’ or ‘D.’”

  2. To make a polite request
    “Could you please move this box?”
    “Could you please pass that paper?”
    Using the word ‘could’ to respond to the requests we made in the last example would suggest that you could do it, but you might not really want to. If you agree to the request, then you use the word ‘can’.
    “Could you please move this box?” “I could, but I am really busy right now.”
    “Could you please pass that paper.” “Sure, I can.”

There you go, a few ways to use ‘should’, ‘would’ and ‘could’. Yes, that’s right, just a few ways! There are more, but we can discuss those another time, or you could try to look up the other uses and try them out yourself or with the support of the online English course EF English Live. Join us for free!

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