I know, we can use could to show past capabilities and future possibilities. But my question is how to identify if it is past or future.

E.g. " He could drive a car."

As per my understanding above sentence can be used to show both past capability and future possibility.

Please correct me if my understanding is not correct.


"Could" can mean several things in the declarative sentences:

  • A very big asteroid could wipe out all of humanity. (possibility)
  • I could make you a cake if I had the necessary ingredients. (conditional)
  • You could take it home with you. (suggestion)
  • He could run very fast when he was young. (past ability)

As a past ability "could" is used in place of "be able to". As a possibility it is used in place of "may" or "might". As a conditional there has to be a if-clause.


Could is used in present when we want to make a less positive statement about something(future capability) or to make polite request.

Unless tense is clear from context,could mean above described stuff.

So, your line in question is in present tense and telling about future capabilities.

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