Can the expression "could I" be used as in the examples below to refer to a hypothetical situation, or about something that would be desired but is not possible? As far as I know, the correct or safest option would be to use "If I could" but I would like to know if this alternative would also be possible.

Coud I sing like her I wouldn't be working 40 hours a week in this clothing factory.

Could I talk to her at least one more time, I'm sure I would convince her that everything I did was because I wanted the best for her.

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    It is old fashioned and formal to place could, should, might, at that the start of an expression. Your example is acceptable English but rather 19th-century sounding and literary. Sep 13, 2023 at 7:40
  • Thanks for the response Michael. I think this is exactly what I was looking for. In Portuguese the equivalent of "If I could" is used practically 100% of the time in everyday conversations and the equivalent of "Could I" can be found very sporadically - and may sound better depending on the context - in literary or poetic works . What I was wondering was whether this type of exception would also be acceptable in English and from your answer I can deduce that it would. Thank you again.
    – Itamar
    Sep 13, 2023 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


It is idiomatic (though fairly formal) to say Were I able to sing… and Were I able to talk…. But you’re far more likely to hear native speakers say If I could sing… and If I could talk….

  • Were I able to take part, then I would certainly be voting against this disgraceful government motion - Andy MacDonald, MP. Sep 14, 2023 at 15:41

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