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  1. #1
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    Question 'if i could' and 'i could have'

    Hi,

    Is this sentence correct?
    If I could speak good English, I could have lived in America.

    The first part (if I could speak good English)
    indicates general ability, and
    I could have lived in America - indicates a possiblity that did not happen.

    Or should it be
    If I could have spoken good English, I could have lived in America.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: 'if i could' and 'i could have'

    The first sentence is OK, but if you want to locate it in the past, sou should try 'had been able to', rather than 'could have spoken', whihc exists in some regional varieties, but is generally considered non-standard.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: 'if i could' and 'i could have'

    If I could speak good English, I could have lived in America.
    The sentence is grammatically correct but it doesn't make much sense to me because it is neither a necessity nor an obligation for anybody to speak good English in order to live in America. In any case, not all Americans speak good English, including the ones born there. It sounds like the statement below :-

    "If I could breathe in water, I could have lived like a fish in the bottom of the ocean." (The ability to breathe in water is a necessity in order to live underwater like a fish)

    I think the original sentence should be written as :- "If I could speak good English, I would have lived in/stayed in/immigrated to/ etc. America." (I believe this is what the writer wishes to express in his sentence.)
    Last edited by Temico; 16-Sep-2005 at 16:28.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: 'if i could' and 'i could have'

    Thank you tdol, and temico for bringing out the subtle difference.
    It is amazing how many shades of meaning can be conveyed in English.

    Thanks again.

    ----
    Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?
    --Clarence Darrow

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