I feel like I've seen a grammar rule somewhere that explained like, "You must answer could questions with the modal can". But I've seen quite a few cases that are opposite, such as...

Q: (turns on AC) Could you feel the cool breeze from outside?

A: Yes! I could really feel it!

Is it just a trivial grammar misuse that even natives make all the time, or does 'could' have some other usages for it, or does the word 'really' neutrallize(?) the hypothetical senses of could here?

1 Answer 1


I've never heard your rule, and I don't think it's very helpful as it stands.

One use of could is to make polite requests, eg

Could you bring my bag up for me?

The answer is most often not can or could but will:

Yes, I will!.

No, I won't, because I'm not going that way.

Sometimes the answer is can, usually meaning that the person is confirming that they are able (or unable) to fulfil the request, but for some reason they are not going to do so right now:

Yes, I can; I'll bring it later.

No, I can't, because I'm not going that way. (Slightly politer than won't here)

Could can also be used, indicating that there is some problem or complication that must be dealt with before they can fulfil the request:

I could bring it, but it might make more sense for you to ask Joe.

Your example, though, is a quite different meaning of could: it is not making a request, it is asking a question, and could is functioning simply as the past of can. In this case, it makes perfect sense for the answer to use could.

  • Thank you! I didn't mean to confuse anyone but, like you said, in the original source, the AC was already turned on!!! :D
    – dolco
    Nov 13, 2019 at 0:31

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