Results 1 to 9 of 9
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Japanese
      • Home Country:
      • Japan
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Feb 2010
    • Posts: 144
    #1

    Could

    Hello!

    Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary explains under the heading “can” as follows:
    1. Could refers to ability or capacity in past time, giving as an example: She could read Latin and Greek when she was ten.
    2. Could is not used, except in conditions, for an isolated achievement in past time, giving as an example:
    When the boat upset, they could swim to the bank which is incorrect.

    Please consider the case below.

    A man infirm at present, recalling his past years, says “I could input information on the computer.”

    He has ever input in the past, but not at present and from now on because of infirmity. Under this condition, that he input in his past years could be thought of as an isolated achievement.
    Is the sentence above correct?

    Thanks in advance

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Portuguese
      • Home Country:
      • Brazil
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Jun 2009
    • Posts: 1,517
    #2

    Re: Could

    Quote Originally Posted by Kazuo View Post
    Hello!

    Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary explains under the heading “can” as follows:
    1. Could refers to ability or capacity in past time, giving as an example: She could read Latin and Greek when she was ten.
    2. Could is not used, except in conditions, for an isolated achievement in past time, giving as an example:
    When the boat upset, they could swim to the bank which is incorrect.

    Please consider the case below.

    A man infirm at present, recalling his past years, says “I could input information on the computer.”

    He has ever input in the past, but not at present and from now on because of infirmity. Under this condition, that he input in his past years could be thought of as an isolated achievement.
    Is the sentence above correct?

    Thanks in advance
    Your own explanation of the facts is indeed very clear and firmly grounded in a respected reference.
    So I believe your last sentence is not correct the way it is. It is better to use "I was able" instead of "I could".

    By the way the example also does not look like typical English - "input information" sounds weird to me. Do you mean the man "was able to use a computer" in the past but nowadays "he can't use a computer properly"? Or to "manage a computer"?

    PS Not a native speaker

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Japanese
      • Home Country:
      • Japan
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Feb 2010
    • Posts: 144
    #3

    Re: Could

    Hello!

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    1. "input information"
    I’m sorry, but I meant "put data". I change "input information" to "put data".
    2. "I could put data on the computer."
    I found this sentence does not refer to a past event.
    It means e.g. if I had a computer, I could put data on it.
    3. "I could not put data on the computer."
    This sentence refers to a past event.

    Thanks in advance

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Portuguese
      • Home Country:
      • Brazil
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Jun 2009
    • Posts: 1,517
    #4

    Re: Could

    Quote Originally Posted by Kazuo View Post
    Hello!

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    1. "input information"
    I’m sorry, but I meant "put data". I change "input information" to "put data".
    2. "I could put data on the computer."
    I found this sentence does not refer to a past event.
    It means e.g. if I had a computer, I could put data on it.
    3. "I could not put data on the computer."
    This sentence refers to a past event.

    Thanks in advance
    I reread your first post and I think I understand it better now.
    You claim that the man used to "put data" or "input information" for a long time in his past, day after day he was able to do that, correct?
    So it is NOT an isolated event. And you want to know it it is possible to say
    "He could put data/input information" with the meaning of ability, right?

    My opinion is that yes (I have changed my opinion a little bit regarding to my first post), it is possible to use "he could put date/input information" to mean "he was able to", but to make yourself clear to your interlocutor it would be necessary to have a clear context. I believe it is better to say "he was able ... " in order to avoid any ambiguity and for the sake of clearness.

    Regarding "put data in the computer" it still does not sound good to my ears.
    Maybe "feed the computer". I am sure a native speaker could help us here both in finding an appropriate word and giving his or her opinion on the main topic.

    Not a native speaker

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Japanese
      • Home Country:
      • Japan
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Feb 2010
    • Posts: 144
    #5

    Re: Could

    Hello!

    Thank you very much for your reply

    The first paragraph
    I understand an isolated event as being an event which has nothing to do with the man at present. His putting data in the past is seen as a point. Then I think the event this time is isolated. This leads to the idea that the sentence given is not correct.

    The second paragraph
    I looked up another book. The book says that "could" in affirmative sentences is used in the sense of the subjunctive mood.
    Then, "he could put date/input information" is not equal to "he was able to".

    The third paragraph
    About "put data in the computer"
    I used the expression "put data" to mean the practice of using the fingers on the keyboard, so that information can be stored on the hard disk.

    Thanks in advance

  1. Raymott's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 24,091
    #6

    Re: Could

    Quote Originally Posted by Kazuo View Post
    Hello!

    Thank you very much for your reply

    The first paragraph
    I understand an isolated event as being an event which has nothing to do with the man at present.
    No, this is wrong. An isolated event means one time (isolated from all other times, not from the present.) This sentence refers to a lot of times.

    His putting data in the past is seen as a point. Then I think the event this time is isolated. This leads to the idea that the sentence given is not correct.
    If the meaning is only one time, then 'could' could be used - but it becomes conditional (according to the argument from Oxford).
    "Because he left his password on the desk, I could easily gain access to his computer".
    This sentence could apply to once or many times. It is 'conditional' in the sense that you could only gain access because of a condition (he left his password on the desk).
    Conditionals are normally "if ... then", but it seems that Oxford also allows 'because ...' as a condition in this context.
    Another 'conditional' structure is: "He left his password on the desk. Therefore, I could gain access to his computer."
    That's what it seems like to me.

    The second paragraph
    I looked up another book. The book says that "could" in affirmative sentences is used in the sense of the subjunctive mood.
    Then, "he could put date/input information" is not equal to "he was able to".
    I'm not sure. I wouldn't over-stress a difference between 'could' and 'was able to'. They mean essentially the same in this context.


    The third paragraph
    You can use 'input' as a verb (It's once of these new verbed nouns)
    In real life, people do not come out with "I could input information on the computer" so any interpretation depends on the context.

    A:
    "I could input information on the computer."
    B: "Pardon?"
    A: "I could input information on the computer."
    B: "How do you mean? When/why/how could you do this?" (B is looking for a condition).
    A: When I was younger, I could input information onto a computer, but now I am disabled.
    B: Ah. I understand.


    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Japanese
      • Home Country:
      • Japan
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Feb 2010
    • Posts: 144
    #7

    Re: Could

    Hello!

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    A simple summarization

    1. For “could” to be used for ability or capacity in past time, a sentence has to show it refers to past time, either by including a phrase or context which shows past time. Otherwise, it gives room for interpretation based on conditions.
    Even if the requirement above has been established, the sentence should be one which is not an isolated achievement. Otherwise the sentence becomes conditional.
    2. Your argument in “Because… ”, “Therefore…” deals with real events, while the argument from Oxford deals with unreal events which didn’t happen, … as far as the matter is concerned with conditions.
    3. May I conclude at this point that the question is whether A is consistent with B or C.
    A. When the boat upset, they could swim to the bank which is incorrect.
    B. "Because he left his password on the desk, I could easily gain access to his computer".
    C. "He left his password on the desk. Therefore, I could gain access to his computer."


    Thanks in advance

  2. BobK's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 16,038
    #8

    Re: Could

    Quote Originally Posted by Kazuo View Post
    Hello!

    Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary explains under the heading “can” as follows:
    1. Could refers to ability or capacity in past time, giving as an example: She could read Latin and Greek when she was ten.
    2. Could is not used, except in conditions, for an isolated achievement in past time, giving as an example:
    When the boat upset, they could swim to the bank which is incorrect.
    ...
    Be careful. Sentence 2 would only be incorrect if it were used to mean 'When the boat upset, they were able to swim to the bank' - which it doesn't

    There are cases where it makes sense to use could in a sentence like that. For example 'When the delivery van visited on Mondays, Wednesday, and Saturdays, they could buy fresh fish.' The 'could' here is not referring to 'an isolated achievement in past time', to use OALDCE's words.

    b

  3. Raymott's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 24,091
    #9

    Re: Could

    Quote Originally Posted by Kazuo View Post
    Hello!

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    A simple summarization

    1. For “could” to be used for ability or capacity in past time, a sentence has to show it refers to past time, either by including a phrase or context which shows past time. Otherwise, it gives room for interpretation based on conditions.
    Even if the requirement above has been established, the sentence should be one which is not an isolated achievement. Otherwise the sentence becomes conditional.
    2. Your argument in “Because… ”, “Therefore…” deals with real events, while the argument from Oxford deals with unreal events which didn’t happen, … as far as the matter is concerned with conditions.
    3. May I conclude at this point that the question is whether A is consistent with B or C.
    A. When the boat upset, they could swim to the bank which is incorrect.
    B. "Because he left his password on the desk, I could easily gain access to his computer".
    C. "He left his password on the desk. Therefore, I could gain access to his computer."


    Thanks in advance
    I think the only real lesson to be learnt is that "could" is not used in sentences such as A - which is what Oxford said. Otherwise you can use it.

    Note that when 'when' means 'whenever', you can use 'could', because 'whenever' denotes, by definition, non-isolated events.

    When[ever] the weather was warm, they could swim to shore.
    When[ever] she had money, she could afford some little luxuries.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

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