Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. sky3120's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Korean
      • Home Country:
      • South Korea
      • Current Location:
      • South Korea

    • Join Date: Jan 2012
    • Posts: 428
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #1

    Could have been is a past form of could be?

    "He said that it could have been wrong"
    VS.
    "He said that it could be wrong"



    I have learned that "could have been" is also a past form of "could be" so I think that the first sentence is grammatically correct, considering tense agreement and if we convert it to direct version, we can write it like this:

    He said, "it could be wrong"
    =He said that it could have been wrong.

    What do you teachers think about it?

    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Mar 2011
    • Posts: 705
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #2

    Re: Could have been is a past form of could be?

    NOT A TEACHER

    He said it that it could have been wrong.

    Supposing that the function of 'could have' here cannot be replaced with 'was able to' since the verb has an epistemic function (I think), we know that the original direct version was - as you wrote:

    He said: 'It could be wrong'.

    I am convinced that we do not transform the 'preterite' modal verbs when indirect (reported) speech occurs.
    That is why I do not think that your first sentence is correct.
    The latter, however, seems fine to me.

    I might be wrong (I do apologise in advance in that case ) so I hope teachers explain better and are more concise than me.

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 17,675
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #3

    Re: Could have been is a past form of could be?

    I think it's more simple than that.

    A: Peter, look at this sign. It says the show starts at 7, but doesn't it start at 7:30?
    Peter: Well, the sign could be wrong.
    He said that the sign could be wrong.

    A: Peter, the program says the show starts at 7. I was sure when we checked the Web site before we left that it said it started at 7:30
    Peter: It's always possible the Web site was wrong.
    Peter said that it could have been wrong.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. sky3120's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Korean
      • Home Country:
      • South Korea
      • Current Location:
      • South Korea

    • Join Date: Jan 2012
    • Posts: 428
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #4

    Re: Could have been is a past form of could be?

    He said, "I am waiting for Ann."
    -> He said that he was waiting for Ann.

    He said, "This sign could be wrong"
    ->He said that this sign could have been wrong.

    The past form of 'am' is 'was' and the past form of 'could be' when used for 'guessing' is 'could have been' as far as I know, but instead of it, I think people tend to use 'could' in indirect narrations. What do you think? Thank you.
    Last edited by sky3120; 31-Aug-2012 at 17:15.

  4. bhaisahab's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 23,238
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #5

    Re: Could have been is a past form of could be?

    Quote Originally Posted by sky3120 View Post
    He said, "I am waiting for Ann."
    -> He said that I was waiting for Ann.

    He said, "This sign could be wrong"
    ->He said that this sign could have been wrong.

    The past form of 'am' is 'was' and the past form of 'could be' when used for 'guessing' is 'could have been' as far as I know, but instead of it, I think people tend to use 'could' in indirect narrations. What do you think? Thank you.
    No. He said, "I am waiting for Ann" - "He said that he was waiting for Ann".

  5. Barb_D's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 17,675
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #6

    Re: Could have been is a past form of could be?

    If you are still standing in front of the sign, you would not back shift. Your friend who wasn't paying attention asks what Peter just said, and you say "He said that the sign could be wrong."

    Once you tell the story later, even if you're just a few paces inside the theater, the you can back shift.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  6. sky3120's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Korean
      • Home Country:
      • South Korea
      • Current Location:
      • South Korea

    • Join Date: Jan 2012
    • Posts: 428
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #7

    Re: Could have been is a past form of could be?

    A: Peter, the program says the show starts at 7. I was sure when we checked the Web site before we left that it said it started at 7:30
    Peter: It's always possible the Web site was wrong.
    Peter said that it could have been wrong.[/QUOTE]



    Now I understood your point, so what you mean is that "was" becomes "had been" but because of "could", meaning "possible" there, it becomes 'could have been'?

    I hope that I understood you right. Thank you.

    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 1,507
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #8

    Re: Could have been is a past form of could be?

    Both sentences are possible, depending on (as others have explained) the relative time reference.
    Technically, constructions such as 'could have Ved' are perfective, rather than true 'past' tenses.

  7. sky3120's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Korean
      • Home Country:
      • South Korea
      • Current Location:
      • South Korea

    • Join Date: Jan 2012
    • Posts: 428
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #9

    Re: Could have been is a past form of could be?

    Technically, constructions such as 'could have Ved' are perfective, rather than true 'past' tenses.[/QUOTE]

    I agree with you, but they mean the past in some sentences, right?

    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 1,507
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #10

    Re: Could have been is a past form of could be?

    Yes, a perfective modal construction certainly can have a past reference.

Similar Threads

  1. [Grammar] What if + past form of the verb?
    By Yura Reiri in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 12-Mar-2012, 18:01
  2. [Grammar] Once + past form of the verb?
    By Yura Reiri in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 12-Mar-2012, 17:52
  3. Past form of 'dogfight'
    By Tomasz Klimkiewicz in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 01-Feb-2010, 15:36
  4. Gerund- (past form / present form)
    By Gray in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 07-Sep-2009, 16:05
  5. [Grammar] Present tense form, the past tense form and the past participle
    By foggyfield in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 25-Aug-2009, 05:13

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •