Can we use "could" to express future events?

  1. How could we recover this much amount from him in future, if he will not earned any income?

  2. How we could manage our time for tomorrow's program?

Without context what would be the meaning of below sentence? Is it for future, present or future?

  1. I could do it for you.

English grammar does not have a future tense.  English does have a future tense, but it's a semantic concept that isn't expressed in the grammar. 

  • I could do it yesterday. 
  • I could do it now. 
  • I could do it tomorrow. 

All of these use what we call the past-tense form of the auxiliary verb "can".  Only the first of these represents an indicative past-tense state.  The present-tense and future-tense sentences use that same word form to represent a state in the subjunctive mode. 

If we want to combine past-tense semantics with the subjunctive mode, we also include the perfect aspect:

  • I could have done it yesterday.


Without context, "I could do it for you" could be for the indicative past, for the subjunctive present, or for the subjunctive future.  Without context, this sentence does not have a fixed meaning. 


"Could" as a modal verb indicates a possibility, so it can be used in a forward-looking way as in your example:

How could we recover this much amount from him in future if he will has not earned any income?

(I am not going to get into the other amendments I made because they are off-topic)

It isn't the use of the word "could" that is putting the sentence into the future tense though - the verb here is recover, and it would be in the future tense even if you said:

How will we recover this much...?

Modal verbs can be used in the past tense as well. For example, you might say:

When I was young I could stay up as late as I wanted.

This indicates that staying up late was a possibility for you at any time in the past.

Regarding your final sentence:

I could do it for you.

This is an offer to do something for someone. As "it" has not been done yet you are speaking about the future. But context could determine if the task is being done in the present, for example if you saw someone undertaking a task now you could offer to immediately take over that task by saying "I could do it for you".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.