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    #1

    can't have done/seen etc. versus couldn't have done/seen etc.

    Do these two phrases mean two different things?

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: can't have done/seen etc. versus couldn't have done/seen etc.

    Context, as usual, is vital if we are to discuss the meanings of expresions.

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    #3

    Re: can't have done/seen etc. versus couldn't have done/seen etc.

    Not a teacher.

    I haven't seen the phrase Can't have done.

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    #4

    Re: can't have done/seen etc. versus couldn't have done/seen etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by david11 View Post
    I haven't seen the phrase Can't have done.
    There are 158 COCA citations for 'can't have' + third form.

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    #5

    Re: can't have done/seen etc. versus couldn't have done/seen etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    There are 158 COCA citations for 'can't have' + third form.
    I have searched(before posting my earlier reply) it but found only one.Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA)
    Last edited by david11; 06-May-2012 at 10:34.

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    #6

    Re: can't have done/seen etc. versus couldn't have done/seen etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by david11 View Post
    I gave the link to show that I have only one example but the link doesn't take us to page I saw.

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    #7

    Re: can't have done/seen etc. versus couldn't have done/seen etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Context, as usual, is vital if we are to discuss the meanings of expresions.
    Again a fragment of a test which you not so long were not particularly fond of.

    Complete the sentece using the word in bold. Use two to five words.

    I'm sure Fred didn't steal the money. (have)

    The answer provided by the author of this test is: Fred can't have stolen the money.

    My question is if "Fred couldn't have stolen the money" is also acceptable.

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    #8

    Re: can't have done/seen etc. versus couldn't have done/seen etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post
    Again a fragment of a test which you not so long were not particularly fond of.
    "Fred can't have stolen the money" has roughly the idea of "It is logically improbable that Fred stole the money".
    "Fred couldn't have stolen the money" is closer to the idea of "It was not possible for Fred to steal the money".

    "Fred can't have..." is therefore closer to the idea of "I am sure Fred didn't..."

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    #9

    Re: can't have done/seen etc. versus couldn't have done/seen etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    "Fred can't have stolen the money" has roughly the idea of "It is logically improbable that Fred stole the money".
    "Fred couldn't have stolen the money" is closer to the idea of "It was not possible for Fred to steal the money".

    "Fred can't have..." is therefore closer to the idea of "I am sure Fred didn't..."
    Thank you.

    Just to make sure I got it right.

    'I am sure Fred didn't steal the money' matches 'Fred can't have stolen the money' (it is my strong conviction based on evidence, my experience etc.)

    while

    'Fred didn't steal the money' matches 'Fred couldn't have stolen the money' (the facts leave no room for speculation)

    Would you notice/make a mental note if you heard someone mismatch the above?

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