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Grammar books say that we can use 'could' for the future if the possibility is weak. If someone says something about future which he knows is certain to happen in future, he uses 'will'. In the light of this, is the following sentence correct?

He could not move a bit.

The person knows that it is certain for the man mentioned to move. I think there should be 'will' in the sentence. Am I right?

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  • While "may not" means "possible not", "could not" means "impossible", so there is no degree of uncertainty
    – gotube
    Aug 10, 2021 at 20:14

3 Answers 3

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The problem you are having is due to that phrase NOT being future tense. It could alternatively be written: "he is not able to move" or possibly "he was not able to move".

If this is something you have written, and you want it to be future, then it needs to be re-written, possibly as: "he won't be able to move".

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    He could not move a bit is definitely NOT present tense. Aug 10, 2021 at 9:31
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Could indicates an ability to do something.

"She could not move" simply indicates that the person in question was not able to move.

"I could go tomorrow" is literally saying that it is possible for me to go tomorrow, but is usually used to say that "I may go tomorrow", as a weaker version of a plan such as "I will go tomorrow".

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Weak possibility is expressed by might, or may if the possibility depends on desire or permission.

He could not move a bit.

Could refers to ability - the above says he is unable to move. It doesn't technically make a definite statement about what happens in the future, though it's fair to assume if he can't move, he will be in that spot in the near future.

He might not move a bit.

This means him moving is possible (and therefore he is able to move), but not certain. It doesn't make a definite statement about what happens in the future.

He may not move a bit.

This means he is allowed to not move a bit, or it's possible he may choose to not move a bit. It doesn't technically make a definite statement about what happens in the future.

The person knows that it is certain for the man mentioned to move. I think there should be 'will' in the sentence. Am I right?

Agreed. He won't move a bit would mean in the future the following is certain: no moving from him.

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