Hi all,

I don't know when should I use "couldn't understand" or "didn't undertand". Could you please show me some examples of how to use them?

Which is the correct one?
1. I couldn't understand a word he said.
2. I didn't understand a word he said.

Many thanks.

1 2
I have thought about this question, and quite honestly I don't think think there is any appreciable difference between the two.

There might be a very slight difference, as follows:

1. I couldn't understand a word he said. (this might suggest that he spoke unclearly or his words weren't audible)

2. I didn't understand a word he said. (might suggest that you heard what he said but didn't understand his meaning)

Basically, "couldn't understand a word he said" and "didn't understand a word he said" both mean the same thing.

Perhaps someone else can give a better answer to this question.
I'd agree.

'I couldn't understand...' — used where someone has a strong accent, or mumbles.

'I didn't understand...' — used where the meanings of the words are unintelligible, e.g. in a Human Resources presentation.

But as taiwandave says, you could use either in either situation.

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
"can" (or "could") are used in English with no added meaning before verbs of perception, "remember", "understand", and possibly a few others. Many other languages do not use their word for "can" in these contexts unless it literally refers to some ability (as in the last two examples below).

I can see it from here. (more idiomatic)
I see it from here. (also grammatically correct)

I could smell something burning. (more idiomatic)
I smelled something burning. (also grammatically correct)

I can't remember what he said. (either is fine)
I don't remember what he said.

Could you understand his diagram? (either is fine)
Did you understand his diagram?

But note: I'm getting old, so I can't remember things very well anymore. ("don't remember" possible, but a little less appropriate)
And: He has the eyes of an eagle. He can read very fine print. ("reads" possible, but considerably less appropriate, in my opinion)

Emotion: geeked
i understood it , but i have one querry abt could , as i know could use for past , but some time why it is using for present like example ;- in childhood i couldnt speak in english but now i can .
could you plez pass it , could you plez speak loud
This thread is almost 10 years old. It is better to start a new thread in these cases.
Anonymoususing for present like example ;- in childhood i couldnt speak in english but now i can
This is not using 'could' as a present tense.
Anonymouscould you plez pass it , could you plez speak loud
You have several errors.

Could you please pass it? Could you please speak louder?

In these cases a past tense form is used to make a polite request. This is a typical use of the past.

Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Hello, could you please helo me with this one?

"I couldn't understand what you meant/mean..."

In which form should i use the second verb if i'm talking about the past?
Anonymousif i'm talking about the past?
Use the past form: meant

Here in the above, could not can be used when you actually tried to understand but you could not understand his sayings and it could be because of his/her accent or any other reason but it clearly conveying that you tried and was not able to understand an

But in case of using i did not understand , it just conveys that you did not understand him and the reason could be your inability to understand. hope this makes sense i cannot explain any better than this
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