Usage of 'could be'


A: We survived and we still have each other.

B: Yeah, things could be worse, right?


I think that here in the sentence, could be is used for a conditional, not for a current possibility , and it is different from 'could be' in this dialogue,


A: Who is at the door?

B: He could be Tom.


In here, it just implies a current possibility, right?


What do you native English experts think? 


Thank you so much as usual and have a good day.

edited Dec 13 '12 at 13:01 Hans Contributor

1 answer


I disagree a little bit with Shawn.  It could be worse. and It might be worse. Don't have the same exact meaning, and both rely heavily on emphasis in spoken English. Modal verbs are tied to amounts of possibility, and while the two are close, they are not the same. While could be most definitely results from a nulled conditional phrase, might be does not.  It could be Tom. implies there are several people expected to come to the door, where It might be Tom. implies that Tom himself is expected, but someone else could show up. This is tied to the amount of possibility associated with each modal. 


Hope I didn't confuse you more, but I wanted to be clear that the two are not interchangeable.

link comment answered Dec 13 '12 at 17:15 agirlcalledrinn New member

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