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  1. #1
    jiang is offline Key Member
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    Default grammar

    :?
    I read a sentence 'You can't see him last week. He was abroad'. Is 'can't ' correctly used here? Since there is 'last week' I think we can only use 'couldn't '. Am I right?
    Last edited by jiang; 08-Dec-2006 at 13:50.

  2. #2
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
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    It should be: "You couldn't have seen him last week." Thus, you are right. :)

    "'You can't see him last week" is not only ungrammatical but it doesn't make sense. While it is true that I can't go back in time to see somebody last week, it is not something that would ever come up. :wink:

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    I misread the original. 'Can't see' doesn't go with 'last week' in BE, either

  4. #4
    CitySpeak Guest

    Default Re: grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by jiang
    :?
    I read a sentence 'You can't see him last week. He was abroad'. Is 'can't ' correctly used here? Since there is 'last week' I think we can only use 'couldn't '. Am I right?

    "You can't see him last week." This is not correct.

    "You couldn't see him last week." - This is correct.

    "You couldn't see him last week because he was abroad. Will you see him this week or the week after?"

    "You couldn't see him last week. He was abroad. When will you see him?"

  5. #5
    CitySpeak Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    It should be: "You couldn't have seen him last week." Thus, you are right. :)

    "'You can't see him last week" is not only ungrammatical but it doesn't make sense. While it is true that I can't go back in time to see somebody last week, it is not something that would ever come up. :wink:

    It shouldn't necessarily be "You couldn't have seen him last week." However, it is, of course, possible. There is no doubt about that.

    "You couldn't see him last week." - This is also possible. It depends on the meaning one intends. It also depends on the context.

    8) :)

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by CitySpeak
    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    It should be: "You couldn't have seen him last week." Thus, you are right. :)

    "'You can't see him last week" is not only ungrammatical but it doesn't make sense. While it is true that I can't go back in time to see somebody last week, it is not something that would ever come up. :wink:

    It shouldn't necessarily be "You couldn't have seen him last week." However, it is, of course, possible. There is no doubt about that.

    "You couldn't see him last week." - This is also possible. It depends on the meaning one intends. It also depends on the context.

    8) :)
    The context is that he was abroad. Thus, "you" could not have seen him last week.

    :P

  7. #7
    CitySpeak Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    Quote Originally Posted by CitySpeak
    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    It should be: "You couldn't have seen him last week." Thus, you are right. :)

    "'You can't see him last week" is not only ungrammatical but it doesn't make sense. While it is true that I can't go back in time to see somebody last week, it is not something that would ever come up. :wink:

    It shouldn't necessarily be "You couldn't have seen him last week." However, it is, of course, possible. There is no doubt about that.

    "You couldn't see him last week." - This is also possible. It depends on the meaning one intends. It also depends on the context.

    8) :)
    The context is that he was abroad. Thus, "you" could not have seen him last week.

    :P

    Well, I would think that's not the only way of seeing this. I do see it as you do, but I also see another possibility. It is possible that "you" wanted to see him last week, but "you" couldn't - as in 'you were not able to' - because he was abroad.

    I would say this can really be taken both ways. So once again, I have to say it depends on the context and what the speaker has in mind within that context.

    Another example:

    I couldn't see my dentist last week when I had my appointment because he was on vacation, so I agreed to let his assistant check my teeth after my cleaning.

    Of course we can also say, "I couldn't have seen my dentist last week because he was on vacation."


    2 - Did you see your dentist last week?

    9 - No, I couldn't see him last week.

    2 - Well, you could have seen him if you asked to.

    9 - No, I couldn't have seen him. He was on vacation.

    2 - Will you go back to see him soon?

    9 - No, not for another six months. His office staff handled everything very well.


    :) :) 8) 8)

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