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Would, Should, and Could: How to Use Them Correctly


Helping verbs, also known as auxiliary verbs, are used to extend the main verb’s meaning in a sentence. These action words help in expressing the main verb’s tense and mood. However, if incorrectly used, it might undermine the purpose of having it in the sentence. Therefore, it is essential to know how helping verbs should be used appropriately in a text. Three of the most commonly used helping verbs are ‘would,’ ‘should,’ and ‘could.’ They sound almost the same and have the same tense, but those three modal auxiliaries don’t mean the same thing. In this article, we shall tackle how to use the said verbs.

Would, Should, and Could

How to Use Would

First of all, ‘would’ is a modal auxiliary verb and is the past tense form of ‘will.’ Like ‘will,’ you can use ‘would’ to express requests, willingness, offers, and conditionals. However, you only have to use ‘would’ instead of ‘will’ if you’re expressing situations about the past. It can also be employed in relaying a hypothetical situation. Additionally, the use of ‘would’ creates a politer tone. The negative form of ‘would’ is ‘would not,’ which can be shortened by using ‘wouldn’t.’

In making a polite request:

  1. I would like more of this drink, please.
  2. Would you please hand me those papers?
  3. Would you mind answering this survey?

In giving an offer/ask a question:

  1. Would you like some tea?
  2. Who would say something like that?
  3. Would you prefer walking instead?

In expressing willingness:

  1. She said she would help us with the project.
  2. I would love to go to your party.
  3. My mom would wake up early in the morning to cook breakfast for us.

In stating conditionals:

  1. If I were you, I wouldn’t say that.
  2. I would have taken that opportunity if I had the chance.
  3. If you were in my shoes, you’d have the same reaction.

How to Use Should

The verb ‘should,’ as the past tense of ‘shall,’ is generally used to give advice, talk about an expectation, or obligate someone. In its obligatory sense, it can be used as an alternative for ‘must.’ The negative form of ‘should’ is ‘should not’ or ‘shouldn’t.’ To further explain how ‘should’ is used, feel free to go over the examples below.

In giving advice:

  1. You should try to think outside the box.
  2. We should let the adults decide.
  3. Jenny should already get a new pair of eyeglasses.

In expressing an expectation:

  1. The teacher should be here soon.
  2. Let’s invite Jake. His class should be done by now.
  3. The band has so many fans. Their concert tickets should be sold out instantly.

In relaying an obligation:

  1. You should finish that by tomorrow.
  2. Motorcycle drivers should always wear their helmets.
  3. Citizens should follow the law.

How to Use Could

‘Could’ is employed to express a possibility or past ability, make a request, or suggest an idea. It can also be used as the conditional form of ‘can.’ It cannot be used to point out an obligation nor convey willingness. It just mainly signifies the possibility of the idea being expressed. The negative form of ‘could’ is ‘could not’ or ‘couldn’t.’

In conveying a possibility/past ability:

  1. Nothing could possibly go wrong if we just follow the instructions.
  2. Anna could be the one sending those letters to Tim.
  3. When I was younger, I could run around the oval without getting easily tired.

In making a request:

  1. Could you please turn the TV on?
  2. Could I borrow a pencil?
  3. I was wondering if I could ask you to have lunch with me.

In making a suggestion:

  1. You could add some vanilla to give your coffee a distinct aroma.
  2. She could’ve just told me about it.
  3. You could go to the library and see if the book is available.

These helping verbs are then followed by the main verb to complete the meaning. Or it can also be succeeded by another auxiliary verb that could also change the tense of the whole action word. Use the discussed verbs correctly and according to the purpose you want to convey. Never forget that ‘would,’ ‘should,’ and ‘could’ are past tense forms of the verbs ‘will,’ ‘shall,’ and ‘can,’ respectively. The choice between which tense to use should also be considered.

When to Use Would, Should, and Could | Image

When to Use Would, Should, and Could

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