I found the awkward sentence when translating it into Korean.

It is "I could use an escape to tropics."

My book said it means (translated into English)

"I want to escape to tropics." or "I need an escape(vacation) to tropics."

Basically, I think "could" means "capability or (not that convincing) guess" and "use" means "do something with it".

Therefore, the sentence like "You could use that cup" makes sense.

But, why does the "necessity" meaning emerge?

1 Answer 1


"Could use" is an idiom. You say "I could use ___" to indicate that you really want or need something, like a vacation, but for some reason you haven't been able to get it yet.

According to Cambridge Dictionary,

used to say that you would like something:

I could use some help putting these decorations up if you're not too busy.

"Can I get you anything?" "Thanks. I could use a drink." ​

used to say that something or someone needs something:

Their website could use an upgrade.

He could use a new suit for work.

  • Yeah, I saw it in thr Cambridge Dictionary, or othe web dictionaries I can get. But I can't find the origin or reason for meaning necessity. I want to check short history from main meaning to sub meaning. Or, as an idiom, does "could use" just have multiple usage, without main meaning?
    – Lee TY
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 8:32

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