Results 1 to 7 of 7
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Russian Federation
      • Current Location:
      • Ukraine

    • Join Date: Oct 2010
    • Posts: 994
    #1

    couldn't / couldn't have

    Hello,

    There's a short dialogue which reads

    - I didn't see you at Sarah's party last night.
    - I had to work yesterday, so I _____________ .

    Do "couldn't go" (=had no possibility to do it) and "couldn't have gone" (= wouldn't have been able to do it) both work?

    I'd be grateful if somebody could help me.
    Thank you.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Russian Federation
      • Current Location:
      • Ukraine

    • Join Date: Oct 2010
    • Posts: 994
    #2

    Re: couldn't / couldn't have

    Viewing my subscribed threads, I realized I had a question regarding this one. This could/could have problem is still nagging at me. What if the aswer was phrased in another way?

    - I didn't see you at Sarah's party last night.
    -Well, I was ill, so I couldn't have come anyway.

    Does that change anything and justify the usage of could have ... ?

  1. bhaisahab's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Ireland

    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 25,626
    #3

    Re: couldn't / couldn't have

    Quote Originally Posted by Verona_82 View Post
    Viewing my subscribed threads, I realized I had a question regarding this one. This could/could have problem is still nagging at me. What if the aswer was phrased in another way?

    - I didn't see you at Sarah's party last night.
    -Well, I was ill, so I couldn't have come anyway.

    Does that change anything and justify the usage of could have ... ?
    "Well, I was ill, so I couldn't have come anyway." This is fine.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Russian Federation
      • Current Location:
      • Ukraine

    • Join Date: Oct 2010
    • Posts: 994
    #4

    Re: couldn't / couldn't have

    Thank you. Now I'm struggling to find the difference and I can't.

    (1) I had to work, so I couldn't come
    (2) I was ill, so I couldn't have come anyway

    What makes couldn't inappopriate for (2) and so good for (1) ? The possibility wasn't realized in both cases...

  2. bhaisahab's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Ireland

    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 25,626
    #5

    Re: couldn't / couldn't have

    Quote Originally Posted by Verona_82 View Post
    Thank you. Now I'm struggling to find the difference and I can't.

    (1) I had to work, so I couldn't come
    (2) I was ill, so I couldn't have come anyway

    What makes couldn't inappropriate for (2) and so good for (1) ? The possibility wasn't realized in both cases...
    "couldn't" is fine in both 1 and 2.

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

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 24,092
    #6

    Re: couldn't / couldn't have

    Quote Originally Posted by Verona_82 View Post
    Hello,

    There's a short dialogue which reads

    - I didn't see you at Sarah's party last night.
    - I had to work yesterday, so I _____________ .

    Do "couldn't go" (=had no possibility to do it) and "couldn't have gone" (= wouldn't have been able to do it) both work?

    I'd be grateful if somebody could help me.
    Thank you.
    They're both correct. In most cases it wouldn't matter which you used.
    However, "I couldn't go" is a simple consequence of having to work. "I couldn't have gone" says a little more. Being conditional, there is an implication of the condition, whether it is made explicit or not. In this case it could mean "I couldn't have gone even if I had known you expected to see me there; even though you missed me; even if I [had] wanted to ..."
    But there's nothing in that two-line dialog that suggests whether the second speaker wants to say anything beyond the fact that s/he couldn't go because of work.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Russian Federation
      • Current Location:
      • Ukraine

    • Join Date: Oct 2010
    • Posts: 994
    #7

    Re: couldn't / couldn't have

    It's clear to me now. Thanks!

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
  •