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I have a question: when I could use the modal verb ¨Could¨ and when ¨Would¨ because for me is similar. I know ¨Would¨ we can use it in very polite situations like ¨would you like a cup of coffee¨. But I saw ¨Would¨ in informal conversations similar to ¨ Could¨. Can somebody help me with that, please?

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"Could" and "would" have some special use patterns when requests are involved.

Would you like a cup of coffee?

^ This is a correct way to ask if the listener wants you to give her some coffee.

Could you like a cup of coffee?

^ This is not correct; it sounds wrong and would not be spoken by a fluent speaker. "Could" refers to a possible future event - you are asking if she wants coffee /now/, not if there is may ever be a future point in time at which she might possibly want it.

If however, you are asking another person to do something, they are nearly interchangeable:

Would you pour me a cup of coffee?

and

Could you pour me a cup of coffee?

are both relatively polite ways to ask that the listener prepare your coffee.

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  • I think it's more colloquial BrE than AmE, but I could go a pint is syntactically fine, as is I could murder a steak. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 3 at 17:03
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    Neither of these have anything to do with the question or this answer so far as I can tell, and "I could go a pint" is so intensely dialectual that it probably shouldn't even be given as a use example to learners. (It's incorrect use in all american english and also in RP) – BadZen Sep 3 at 17:13
  • I couldn't / wouldn't agree with you there, but it's not worth arguing about. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 3 at 17:40
  • "Could you drink a cup of coffee?" is also good. – Weather Vane Sep 3 at 18:14
  • @WeatherVane - that sounds to me like the speaker is asking about the listener's /ability/ to drink a cup of coffee, not her /desire to/. – BadZen Sep 3 at 23:22

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