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    #1

    could or could have if we talk about possibility in the past

    Hey guys there is 1 tricky question i'd like to ask you. I hope you don't mind.
    I guess there were a lot of questions about this problem but i'll ask you anyway because it's slightly different.

    So if we talk about past and I want to express possibility how should I say? here is some contex you might want to see

    Hello my friend! Have you seen Mr. M? What is he doing for his living?
    Hi man! I don't know he COULD become a doctor.
    or
    Hi man! I don't know, he COULD HAVE become a doctor.

    Honestly not sure, that this contex is appropriate, but I hope so:)
    So I know, what could have means, that somebody was capable of doing something, but didn't do because of something else.
    And I know, that could may express future or present tenses and ability in the past.

    But what I want to know is how to say right about something, that could happen or couldn't in the past.
    Where in this case do we use could and could have or it means the same?
    In this case I imply, that we don't know if Mr. M became a doctor or didn't.

    best regards, Mike.
    P.S. Im not interested in might:)) So the question only about could and could have:)
    Last edited by monnzz; 17-Jul-2013 at 08:29.

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    #2

    Re: could or could have if we talk about possibility in the past

    Welcome to Using English, Mike.

    We insist on the use of standard English here, with correct capitalisation and punctuation. Texting abbreviations like 'u', 'smth'. 'smb' and 'wanna' are not allowed.

    'I' is always capitalised.

    Please oblige us by using the Edit Post feature to correct your text, followed by Save.

    We will then consider your question.

    Rover

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    #3

    Re: could or could have if we talk about possibility in the past

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I fixed my post as it was required:) So, could someone help me? Anyhelp would be much appreciated:)

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: could or could have if we talk about possibility in the past

    Quote Originally Posted by monnzz View Post
    Hey guys there is 1 tricky question I'd like to ask you. I hope you don't mind.
    I guess there were a lot of questions about this problem but I'll ask you anyway because it's slightly different.

    So if we talk about past and I want to express possibility how should I say? here is some context you might want to see

    Hello my friend! Have you seen Mr. M? What is he doing for his living?
    "Hi man! I don't know. He COULD become a doctor." This only refers to the future.
    or
    "Hi man! I don't know; he COULD HAVE become a doctor." This is the correct sentence.

    Honestly not sure, that this contex is appropriate, but I hope so:)
    So I know what "could have" means - that somebody was capable of doing something, but didn't do because of something else. Yes, that's one meaning (See below).
    "He could have become a doctor" is what you want. But this has two possible meanings.
    "He could have become a doctor (but he didn't, because he didn't study hard enough)."
    "He could have become a doctor (but I don't know whether he did or not. He might be a doctor)".

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    #5

    Re: could or could have if we talk about possibility in the past

    okey, thanks a lot Raymott, I really appreciate your help!

    But could you tell me when do we use "could" to express possibility in the past?

    Because it's said that it can be used this way, but I haven't catched yet, what the difference is between "could" and "could have" when we imply possibility in the past.
    Last edited by monnzz; 18-Jul-2013 at 13:32.

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    #6

    Re: could or could have if we talk about possibility in the past

    Please, anyone, could you justify my guesses or turn them down. Here they are:

    when we use "could" as possibility in the past it means that something did happen sometimes, that's why there is a possibility.

    For example: people could lose their way in the dark. (it means people sometimes lost their way in the dark in the past)

    when we use "could have" as possibility in the past it means that something happened or didn't happen, but we don't know for sure.

    For example: Who opened the window? I don't know, it could have been John. (it means we don't know for sure if it was John or somebody else)

    So, am I correct or wrong? Could someone tell me?

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    #7

    Re: could or could have if we talk about possibility in the past

    Quote Originally Posted by monnzz View Post
    Please, anyone, could you justify my guesses or turn them down. Here they are:

    when we use "could" as possibility in the past it means that something did happen sometimes, that's why there is a possibility.

    For example: people could lose their way in the dark. (it means people sometimes lost their way in the dark in the past)

    when we use "could have" as possibility in the past it means that something happened or didn't happen, but we don't know for sure.

    For example: Who opened the window? I don't know, it could have been John. (it means we don't know for sure if it was John or somebody else)

    So, am I correct or wrong? Could someone tell me?
    You are right.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: could or could have if we talk about possibility in the past

    'Could' in the past also means "was able to".
    "When I was a child, I could play the piano. But now I've forgotten how." "I could" = "I was able to"
    This is 'could' as the past tense of 'can'.

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    #9

    Re: could or could have if we talk about possibility in the past

    Thanks a lot guys, you've helped me very much:)

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