1. Couldn't you explain this just one more time? Source

  2. David couldn’t have the money. It is not possible that David has the money. Source

How can the first one be a request? Please show me some examples of these two sentences.

  • The two sentences are examples, provided by the website you link to. The second one could also be expressed as David can't [possibly] have the money. Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 9:12
  • I tried to edit your title but not sure I really understood your question. If you can explain it better, edit it again. :)
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 14:02

2 Answers 2


In many societies, it is considered more polite and respectful to say some things indirectly. The first sentence you quoted is an example of that. If you said something like

Hey, you, explain it again!

it would be considered quite direct and quite blunt, maybe even impolite or rude.

To be more polite, you can state your request indirectly. You don't spell out the request, but you ask why the other person can't honor your request. The implied train of thought is something like this

(You) Couldn't you explain this just one more time?

(The other person) Yes, I could.

(You) So would you explain it, please?

So your first example actually isn't a request with regard to the literal meaning and the grammatical structure, but it is implied that it is meant to be a request.


The first one is request because of it's question mark and the fact that the question is directed to "you" in this case.

More examples are:

You couldn’t stop at a bank machine, could you?

Why couldn't you give me the money earlier?

Source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/es/gramatica/gramatica-britanica/requests

As you can see, the have question marks and direct the question/request to someone, usually "you" - therefore implies that it is a request

Other general uses of "couldn't":

I was so excited that I couldn't sleep, so I got up and dressed.

I couldn't see a thing earlier.

  • "The first one is a request because of its question mark" Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 20:20
  • @DialFrost Isn't it your responsibility to find them yourself?
    – user150280
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 8:59
  • I mean, I could find them myself, just that I do not have the time @Eden0516
    – DialFrost
    Commented Jun 10, 2022 at 0:18
  • @Eden0516 You can simply edit my post to add the attribution if you know the link, I would gladly approve the edit (gotube has helped me edit and add attributions)
    – DialFrost
    Commented Jun 10, 2022 at 0:19
  • Why should I help you edit it? You did something incorrect, and others have to help you deal with it?
    – user150280
    Commented Jun 10, 2022 at 8:59

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