Audio Lessons

Justin Timberlake's Can/Could lesson

Justin Timberlake's Can/Could lesson

Let’s listen to this clip from Justin Timberlake’s ‘My Love’…

I could see us holding hands
Walking on the beach, our clothes in the sand
I could see us on the countryside
Sitting on the grass laying side by side

You could be my baby
When I look at my lady
Girl you amaze me
Ain’t gotta do nothing crazy
See all I want you to do is be my love

Let’s read the lyrics together.

Here, Justin Timberlake uses the word ‘could’ many times.  In English, could refers to things that are possible.  For example…

He could be a popular singer someday. (possible in the future)

It is easy to confuse ‘could’ with ‘can’.  ‘Can’ is used to show ability.  For example…

I can do 1000 chin-ups consecutively.  (ability right now)

Now here is the confusing part.  When we talk using ‘can’ in the past tense, we also say the word ‘could’.  So please remember ‘could’ has multiple definitions: 1) possibility in the future 2) ability in the past.

So let’s look at Justin Timberlake’s song.  He sings:

You could be my baby.

Here, Justin Timberlake is saying that this is possible and that he wants this to come true.

If he sang ‘you can be my baby’, his meaning would be changed.  ‘You can be my baby’ is like saying ‘I give you permission to be my baby’.  Not very smooth…

Now you try.  In all of the following sentences, you are trying to show ‘ability’ (not ‘possibility’).  Please use ‘can’ or ‘could’ where appropriate.

Question 1

I __________ meet you after work today.

Question 2

I __________ speak Chinese when I was young, but since then I have forgotten.

Question 3

I heard you __________ play cricket pretty well before your injury.