• "Dan was so successful at school, he made it, he could."

Can the modal verb "could" be used as in the above example, as a standalone without a verb following it?

  • "Dan was so successful at school, he made it, he could (do it)."
  • Neither of those sentences make any sense. What is it that you're trying to say in the last part? Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 23:49
  • This comes in context, of course. "Dan was so successful at school. He could face all difficulties. He could." Can "could" stand as an independent verb? Tnx,
    – Tommy
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 23:52
  • 1
    All auxiliary verbs can be stranded. But as others have said, the sentence doesn't make much sense. Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 0:21
  • @Tommy So—you mean to say something like Dan was so successful at school that he knew he could make it? Or Dan was so successful at school. He had made it. He'd known he could? The existing short phrases with commas still doesn't make sense to me. (Your longer version in your comment here makes a lot more sense.) Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 6:47
  • @Tommy You should really add that context to the question itself. Knowing that it relates to poetry (in which conventions of grammar and style often don't apply) makes a difference. In terms of poetry, both he made it and he could seem like very reasonable so-called units of thought to me. Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 15:08

1 Answer 1


You can use could without a verb following like all modal verbs, but the context should make sense. Could should only be used if the sentence is expressing ability to do something and is conditional.

Could infers that one can do it now and after, but you used the past-tense of to be (was).

Here's an example which would work.

Person 1: He could make the team if he tries harder.

Person 2: In my opinion, I don't think he could.

As a simple answer to your question, yes, you could.

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