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    #1

    the usage of "could"

    Dear all,

    I've already asked a question about the following sentence, but let me ask again from a different point of view.

    Let's say there is a woman who has survived a car crash miraculously, and she says the following quote to a friend of hers who came to see her in the hospital.

    "Now I know there is a God. If I could come out of that (the car crash) alive and in one piece, it must be because He is watching over me up there."

    I think "If I came out of that alive and in one piece,...." would be better because you normally don't use "could" in order to refer to a discrete past event.

    Is there any particular reason that "could" was placed before "come"? Or am I misunderstanding something about the use of "could"?

    Thank you!

    OP
    Last edited by optimistic pessimist; 14-Oct-2011 at 12:59. Reason: correction

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    #2

    Re: the usage of "could"

    Quote Originally Posted by optimistic pessimist View Post
    Is there any particular reason that "could" was placed before "come"?
    Yes. The person is stressing that the possibility of her not coming out alive and in one piece had been high.

    'Could' gives the idea of 'If it was possible for me to come out alive and in one piece (and we know that was unlikely but, as we see, it happened)...'

    She could have said an number of other things, but she chose to say that.

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    #3

    Re: the usage of "could"

    Dear all,

    fivejedjon, thanks for your reply.

    If you use "could" for one-time past event in order to stress the possiblity being low, then is it okay to say this way?

    Against all odds, the climbers could finally reach the top of the mountain.


    Thank you!

    OP

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    #4

    Re: the usage of "could"

    No.

    In your original sentence, 'could' is possible because the speaker has constructed a conditional-type sentence. Even though we know that it is not hypothetical - she did come out alive - the possibility of her not coming out alive is implied. This is not the situation with your mountain climbers.

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    #5

    Re: the usage of "could"

    Dear all,

    fivejedjon, thanks again.

    I'd like to ask one more thing.

    Is it okay to conclude that "If I came out of that alive and in one piece, ...." is also fine with a little difference in nuance?

    Thank you!
    Last edited by optimistic pessimist; 18-Oct-2011 at 13:07.

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    #6

    Re: the usage of "could"

    Yes

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