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  1. #1
    Kazuo is offline Member
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    Can't possibly have

    Hello!

    A.There's something wrong with the arithmetic ― we can'tpossibly have sold that many copies.(from OALD)

    Interpretation:
    The shop assistant assumes that we (=the shop) didnít sell that many copies.
    The related facts:
    The shop sold 100 copies.
    The numbers added up to 110.

    B. There's something wrong with the arithmetic ― we canpossibly have sold that few copies.( = an arrangement of the sentence A )

    Interpretation:
    The shop assistant assumes that we (=the shop) didnít sell that few copies.
    The related facts:
    The shop sold 100 copies.
    The numbers added up to 90.

    Please consider if the reasoning above is right.

    Thanks in advance
    Last edited by Kazuo; 03-May-2010 at 11:45.

  2. #2
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    Re: Can't possibly have

    Can in the past = could.

    In the first A: I prefer "We couldn't possibly have...' - but here it seems not as bad a mistake as using 'Can possibly have' - That one definitely feels like it should be "Could possibly have'

    Particularly with the word 'possibly'

  3. #3
    Kazuo is offline Member
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    Re: Can't possibly have

    Hello, leonwool!

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    1. The points to be confirmed
    (1). Question B is given so as to agree with the related facts of B.
    (2). I think you corrected my error according to (1). That is:can possibly have could possibly have

    2. The reason for the original sentence B being wrong
    B. There's something wrong with the arithmetic ― we can possibly have sold that few copies.
    my new interpretation
    The shop assistant assumes that it is possible we (=the shop) sold that few copies.

    3. Your correction
    B. There's something wrong with the arithmetic ― we could possibly have sold that few copies.
    my interpretation
    The shop assistant assumes it was possible to sell that few books, but we didnít. The meaning is almost not clear to me.

    Please consider 2 and 3.

    Thanks in advance

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Can't possibly have

    When making assumptions, we tend to use the negative form 'can't have + past participle' but not the positive form.

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