# Would vs Could vs Should vs Might in English!

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This is a question that pops up a lot in English learning.
What is the deal with Would vs Could and also Should vsΒ Might?.

When should you use which one? Which is more polite? What would a native speaker say?

Donβt worry!

### Opposite Words Game

Opposite Words Game x
Opposite Words Game

The following is your one-stop guide to the proper usage for each word. You can refer back to any of this during your independent study or you can ask a question in the comments and Iβll do my best to clear things up.

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Probability vs Possibility

Before explaining the terms, we need to look at what these words are trying to explain.

Would vs Could = PROBABILITY

Should vs Might = POSSIBILITY

The best way to understand the difference is with the following sentences:

• I will probably see you later.Β (more definite)
• I will possibly see you later.Β (less definite β more doubt as it is also possible that I will not see you later)

Try to say them to yourself a few times before reading more so that you hear the difference. Got it? Great!

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Would vs Could

The most important thing to realise here is that these verbs are being used to showΒ probability.

Itβs easier when you look atΒ the root verbs of these words:

Would β Will

Could β Can

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Would is more affirmativeΒ than could, but it requires conditions to be met:

• I would go to the supermarket if Dad hadnβt taken the car.

Whereas with could, the speaker is able to perform the task but has an excuse as to why they wonβt:

• I could go to the supermarket, but I donβt feel like it right now.

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Would and couldΒ can also be used for purposes of being polite when used in questions.

Would to a native speaker, sounds a little more direct than could.

ApplyingΒ the root verbs above, if you ask someone to do something by saying:

• Would you _____ ?

You are implying that they are definitely able to do it and therefore should have done it already.

Could sounds a little more polite because you are saying:

• Are you able to do _____

This implies that you donβt expect them to do it but it would be great if they can.

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Take a look at these two contrasting examples:

Spoken sentence: Would you close the door, please?

Translation: I know you are able to close the door, do it.

Versus:

Spoken Sentence: Could you close the door, please?

Translation: If it is possible and if you want to, canΒ you close the door please?

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Realistically, a native speaker would not and should not get angry with you for using wouldΒ rather than could, but this is one way to sound a bit more polite and less demanding.

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Should vs Might

These two are very similar butΒ are defining possibilityΒ which is slightly different from probability.

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Letβs use the example of predicting the weather:

Spoken sentence: It should be raining now, but itβs actually sunny!

Translation: Rain was expected, but in fact itβs sunny.

In the example above, there was an 80 percent chance of rain.

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Now compare that to the following:

Spoken sentence: It might rain later, but it also might be sunny.

Translation: Both events are possible.

In this instance, there isΒ a 50 percent chance of rain, nobody isΒ sure.

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Obligation

Should and might can also be used to explain obligation.

For example:

Spoken sentence: I should go to the bank later.

Translation: I have an appointment and IΒ have some money toΒ deposit.

There is a sense of obligation here. You could also say: I need to go to the bank later.

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In comparison to the following example:

Spoken sentence: I might go to the bank later.

Translation: I donβt have to, but itβs possible that I will go to the bank.

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Here is another example for practice:

Spoken sentence: I should go to work, but I donβt want to.

Translation: Itβs a good idea for me to go to work and I probably will even though I donβt feel like it.

Versus:

Spoken Sentence: I might go to work later.

Translation: I donβt have to go to work, but I could get some extraΒ work done.

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Yes, I know, this is a lot of information to digest!

The best way to completely understand the information is to practice by speaking to a native speaker so that it becomes natural. In any case, try saying it out loud and you will start to hear the difference between the examples.

I hope this helps and please feel free to ask any questions below!

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